Special issue devoted to women and girls with disabilities
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Disability Voice
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women



Ana PelaezThere 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


We asked two women with disabilities to explain the main difficulties women and girls with disabilities face in today's Europe and how governments can protect their rights. 
Pirkko Mahlamaki
Pirkko Mahlamaki is Secretary General at the Finnish Disability Forum and member of the Board of EDF. She was also recently elected as member of the Board of European Women’s Lobby.
Lidia Best
Lidia Best is Vice President of the European Federation of Hard of Hearing People. She is originally from Poland but she lives in the UK.
Pirkko and Lidia are both members of EDF Women’s Committee. Read their interviews here


To raise awareness on forced sterilisation against women and girls with disabilities, CERMI Women's Foundation organised a photo competition on this theme. EDF was invited to be one of the members of the jury that selected the two winning pictures based on their originality, technical and aesthetic quality, social sensibility, critical and communication capacity etc. 
The first award was given to 
Kike Balenzategui Arbizu

Young girl walking on train lines holding a plastic doll on her left hand and a pair of scissors on the right hand
The second award was given to Andrés Derqui Romero

Woman in wheelchair looking through a mirror at a pregnant woman without disability

Congratulations to the winners!

CERMI Women's Foundations hopes that this will be the first of a series of photo competitions that will focus each year on a different topic of utmost importance for women and girls with disabilities. 

More information is available in Spanish here
Editor: Lila Sylviti, with the support of Catherine Naughton and An-Sofie Leenknecht 

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