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Strengthening the protection of women and girls with disabilities, a priority

11 July 2012

“Strengthening protection of women and girls with disabilities from violence continues to be a priority”, said Mona Rishmawi, the Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non Discrimination Branch in the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva during a side event hosted during the 20th session of the Human Rights Council. Surveys and studies have shown that women and girls with disabilities experience a high rate of violence by a variety of actors within a range of situations and that this violence remains largely hidden.

In its resolution 17/11, the Human Rights Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a “Thematic analytical study on the issue of violence against women and girls and disability”.

In its findings, the study noted that both men and women with disabilities are exposed to greater risk of violence.

In reference to the study, the Branch Chief stated that societal barriers limit access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with other members of society. Sentiments that have also been credited to Special Rapporteur on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment.
However women and girls face an even greater risk of violence due to complex intersectional forms of discrimination as well as gender based assumptions and expectations. It also found that women with disabilities are also more exposed to forms of violence which are not experienced by women without disabilities. Acts of violence against women and girls with disabilities also include other forms of physical and psychological violence and neglect including the withholding of medication and assistive devices, refusal of caregivers to assist in daily functioning, psychological manipulation and harming or threatening to ham. In addition, they are also particularly vulnerable to forced sterilization and other medical interventions carried out without their consent.

She narrated recommendations in the study calling for a national review of legislation on violence against women to take into account specific forms of violence experienced by women and girls with disabilities and to bring domestic laws in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other relevant human rights treaties.

The thematic analytical study requested the Human Rights Council to review the international legal framework for the protection of women and girls with disabilities from violence and assesses steps taken by states and other relevant stakeholders to meet their legal obligations from the perspective of legislation; prevention and protection programmes; prosecution and punishment; and recovery and rehabilitation.                                                             

The study also recommends initiating awareness raising programmes designed to change the societal perceptions of persons with disabilities. It further recommends to States to ensure that services and programmes are accessible.

To strengthen access to justice, the study recommends that States provide adequate training for law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges on the forms and types of violence experienced by persons with disabilities. In addition, legal counsel and legal aid services are to be made available and accessible to women and girls with disabilities.

In conclusion, the thematic analytical study found that violence experienced by women and girls with disabilities remains largely invisible; that current legislative, administrative and policy efforts do not link gender and disability in a meaningful way; that there is a  lack of systematized and disaggregated data on violence against women and girls with disabilities and where it exists, the data is poorly recorded, inconsistent and incomplete; and finally that States programmes on violence against women do not adequately address the specific vulnerability of women and girls with disabilities. To remedy this, the study proposes a dual-track approach - programmes to prevent and address violence against women and specific programmes and strategies targeting girls and women with disabilities.

11 July 2012