There are more than 46 million women and girls with disabilities in Europe, representing 60% of the overall population of persons with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities face a double challenge: they are very often discriminated against, based both on their gender and on their disability.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD)
clearly recognises under article 6 that “women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination” and that states should take measures “to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Despite having ratified the CRPD, the European Union (EU) has up until now taken only very little consideration of the situation of women and girls with disabilities when it comes to EU gender equality policies or disability policies.
Based on statistics, it is very clear that women and girls with disabilities are more exposed to violence than women without disabilities. In many cases, it is not made possible for them to be protected from violence or to have access to justice, because they are deprived of their legal capacity and someone else decides for them; this legal representative or ‘guardian’ could be the perpetrator of the violence. Apart from lack of access to justice, women and girls with disabilities who face violence often do not have access to information about their rights. Support services – if existing - are often not accessible to them.
Another common kind of violence against women and girls with disabilities is sexual abuse which is often closely linked with forced sterilisation. Unfortunately, these two topics are very well connected. Forced sterilisation means that women and girls with disabilities are deprived of their sexual and reproductive rights as well as their right to have a family. Forced sterilisation happens without the consent of the woman or the girl with disability, decided by their guardians which could be a member of their family, the institution which hosts them etc.
Women and girls with disabilities living in institutions and especially those with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities are at higher risk of violence. They also lack access to information on their rights.
Currently, there is no legislation in Europe to protect women and girls with disabilities from violence. The EU has not yet ratified the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence
. The EU should ratify this important treaty without further delay.
Last but not least, the EU should take measures to ensure the inclusion and participation of women and girls with disabilities in society as well as their involvement when it comes to decisions concerning their lives. The voices of women and girls with disabilities must be heard. Nothing should be decided for us without us!
Ana Peláez Narváez
Chair of EDF Women’s Committee
Member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities