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EDF Women's Voice Newsletter | Issue 16 | July 2020
Women's Voice is about you! It is a way to share and receive updates on gender equality, women's rights and rights of women and girls with disabilities in Europe. Send us your news, events, calls for action and any other relevant news items to include in this newsletter to:

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Dear sisters, friends and colleagues, 

Adding to our usual content, this month we are highlighting police brutality toward persons with disabilities. For more on this topic, check out our previous Women’s Voice and/or the EDF Disability Voice newsletter sent last week.

In this edition: nominate women with disabilities to the “Her Abilities Award”, participate to summer consultations (including 2 from the European Commission), read new data on women and children with disabilities users of care services, find out how the EU Strategy of Victims Rights can be beneficial for women victims of crimes, and more!

And if you missed our webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on women with disabilities in June, you can find the summary, transcript and/or recording on our website.

The Women’s Voice is going on summer break and will be back in September, until then-
In solidarity and sisterhood, 

Marine Uldry & Naomi Mabita 

European Disability Forum | nothing about us without us -



Disability, Gender and Police Brutality

Police brutality refers to human rights violations by the police. It can include beating, discriminatory or unnecessary use of force and weapon, racial abuse, torture and killings.

In Europe and elsewhere, police often use tear gas and rubber bullet during protests for “riot control”. Tear gas is a chemical weapon that causes severe eye and respiratory pain, skin irritation, bleeding, and blindness. Rubber bullets are projectiles used as alternative to traditional bullets. Despites their name, they are principally made of metal, either covered with a rubber-coating, or having rubber as an admixture, minority component. A 2017 review in the British Medical Journal found that 15% of patients treated for injuries from “nonlethal” projectiles suffered permanent damage and 3% died.

Police brutality has been condemned by many bodies of the United Nations, including the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the UN Committee Against Torture. In June, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on excessive use of force by law enforcement officers against Africans and people of African descent.

In recent months, Europe has started to look deeper at its policing system, triggered by increased police violence throughout COVID-19 lockdown and solidarity protests for the deaths of Black people killed by police in the USA. Victims of this violence include women with disabilities.

Example of France: What happened to Zineb Zerari-Redouane, Odile Maurin and Vanessa Langard?

In 2018, the “yellow vests” grassroots protest movement started to take the streets and highways of France to demand economic justice. Since then, 11 people died and 4000 were injured, some of these injuries leading to disability. 25 people have had an eye taken out by LBD40 bullets (rubber bullets) shot by French police.

Vanessa Langard: injured and disabled by the police

Portrait of Vanessa Langard wearing glasses with one tinted glass

Vanessa was among the 25 French people who lost an eye because of bullet shot during the protests. In France, but also in other countries such as Portugal and Spain, the police have been commonly using rubber bullets against protestors, leading to injury, disabilities and even death. In an interview, Vanessa explained that she was walking away from one of the protest area when she received the rubber bullet in the head. She suffered from a severe head trauma, brain haemorrhage and broken bones. She lost vision from her left eye, half of her ability to taste and smell and epilepsy, and is facing the effects of post traumatic shock. The investigation against the police is still ongoing.

Scandinavian countries, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Croatia mostly stopped using the equivalent of the handheld “defensive ball launcher” used in the case of Vanessa because of its dangerousness and potential lethal effect (more information available here).

Zineb Zerari-Redouane: older woman killed by police’s tear gas

Peaceful protestors in the street asking justice pour Zineb R, holding photo of her

Zineb Redouane was an older Algerian woman living in France since the 80s. She was not participating in the protests. She was trying to close the shutters of her fourth-floor apartment to avoid tear gas coming from the street when she got hit with a canister of teargas in the head. Many witnesses reported that the police deliberately aimed at her. Two ten-gram capsules of tear gas were found at her home. Zineb was transferred to a hospital and died the next day. The investigation against the police is still ongoing.

Odile Maurin: accused of injuring police officers with her wheelchair… and condemned

Odile Maurin and another woman in wheelchair facing the police during protest

Odile Maurin is a disability rights activist, president of the association Handi-Social. She is a woman with autism and wheelchair user. During a protest, one police officer took control of her wheelchair to try to move her. Because of the mishandling of the wheelchair, Odile was thrown against a truck, which injured another police officer present. Odile suffered numerous fractures of the foot with bone tears and bruises. Despite a complaint, no action was taken against the police officer for the serious injury suffered by Odile as a result of a police’s action. However, the French court was quick to prosecute and condemn Odile. She was sentenced to 2 months suspended prison sentence and one year ban on demonstrations, for acts of "violence against the agent of public authority".

Read more about Police brutality, Racism, and Disability in EDF Disability Voice newsletter.

The CRPD, the CEDAW and police brutality

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women oblige countries to prevent any form of violence and abuse against women, including women with disabilities. The Committees that monitor the implementation of the Conventions have recommended mandatory and regular training on the rights of persons with disabilities and women rights for police forces in its general comments and recommendations.

The CRPD Committee has denounced excessive use of force from the police many times. In the concluding observations on Slovenia, the Committee expressed concerns at the reported cases of excessive use of force against persons in psychiatric institutions by judicial police officers and medical staff. Looking at Montenegro, the Committee denounced that the mental health law of the country requires the police to arrest people based only on the suspicion of “mental illness”, leading them to be arrested, put in hospital institutions and often abused and ill-treated.

We also see in the Police the factor of double victimisation, which is the blaming and or dismissing of victims who are seeking assistance, a violent practice that harms those most marginalised. The CRPD and CEDAW Committees have denounced the structural and systemic discrimination faced by those reporting crime, particularly women with disabilities, who are often disbelieved and dismissed by police.

If your country is going to be reviewed by the CRPD or CEDAW Committee, you can report police brutality faced by women with disabilities in your alternative report. For any questions, contact EDF staff.



Her Abilities Award logo

Nominations for Her Abilities Award are open 

Her Abilities is the first global award honouring women with disabilities who have achieved greatness in their life or field of work. It is a initiative, launched in 2018 by Light for the World along with Right Livelihood Award winner Yetnebersh Nigussie.

This year, the Award takes on a special significance. 2020 has seen catastrophic bush fires in Australia, the global COVID19 pandemic, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, uniting people worldwide against racism and police violence. Women with disabilities have been a part of it all. Whether on the front lines or ploughing a quiet furrow for progress. Their situation means they often face extra danger. Yet their stories are too seldom heard.

Nominations of incredible women with disabilities from around the globe are now opened in three categories: Health & Education; Rights; Arts, Culture & Sports.

Do you know a woman with a disability who has achieved excellence? Help us celebrate #herabilities! You have until 27th September to nominate.

Use this social media toolkit to spread the word. 

UN Women Committee adopts statement on racism

Following the global anti-racism protect happening in the world, the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women adopted a statement calling for a new area in human rights, social and gender justice.

The Committee recognises that many regions of the world share a history of African enslavement and forced transportation for labour on plantations, mines and other locations, and the coercive and unpaid labour exploitation of women, men and children of African descent. It acknowledges the numerous descendants of the enslaved in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe and the legacy of racism and racial discrimination that persists.  The Committee also recognizes this legacy and the imperative to add our voices to those calling for justice and human rights for all. 

Read the full statement.


New data on women and children with disabilities users of care services

The European Institute for Gender Equality recently released a new report called “Gender Equality and Long-Term Care at Home”. This report provides useful data for adults with disabilities, children with disabilities, and older people throughout Europe as well as the people that provide them with care. This report is noteworthy because it provides data on children with disabilities which was before minimal.
According to the report, 1 in 4 people in the EU have a long-term disability, with more women experiencing a disability than men. Due to the average longer life expectancy, women are more in need of long-term services than men are. When it comes to people providing those long-term services, the overwhelming majority of those people are women whether that be in the formal or informal sector. Informal care is one of the biggest drivers of women’s lower employment rate and higher rate of inactivity in the labor market. As a result, this leads to the enhancement of gender inequalities such as pay and pension, increased risks of poverty, and ill health. In the formal market, women make up 82% of workers in this sector, yet still face similar discriminations. 
Read more about the findings here

European Commission releases Strategy on Victims' Rights

The European Commission adopted a strategy to ensure the rights of victims of crimes for 2020-2025. Earlier this year, EDF had called the Commission to comply with the CRPD and ensure the rights of victims with disabilities, with particular attention to women and girls with disabilities.

The Strategy recognises that persons with disabilities, including women with disabilities, are often victims of hate crimes or use and that their access to justice may be more difficult, especially if they are deprived of legal capacity. It also includes the obligation of the strategy to comply with the CRPD.

Keys actions particularly relevant are:
  • EU accession to the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating gender based and domestic violence
  • Promotion of support services for victims with special needs, including victims with disabilities through EU funding possibilities and the EU awareness campaign on victims’ rights
  • Set up integrated and targeted specialist support services for the most vulnerable victims, including Child Houses, Family Houses, LGBTI+ safe houses, disability inclusive and accessible services and venues and independent detention bodies to investigate crime in detention
  • Strengthening cooperation with international and regional partners, such as the United Nations and the Council of Europe to promote high international standards for victims’ rights, including victims with disabilities
Read the strategy here. A summary is also available here.

GREVIO to prepare its first General Recommendation on the implementation of the Istanbul Convention

Noting the need to highlight the continuum of violence against women and domestic violence offline and online, the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) decided to prepare its very first General Recommendation.

The recommendations will explain in more details how the Convention address online and technology-facilitated violence against women and which measures States must adopt to combat this form of violence. 

EDF discussed the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls with disabilities

slide show during the webinar with Luisa Bosisio speaking, sign interpreter interpreting

In June EDF hosted a webinar called “Left behind? Women with disabilities during COVID-19” moderated by Ana Pelaez Narvaez, EDF Vice President.

Throughout the webinar, the central themes focused on the pandemic, discrimination, abuses, and human rights violations against women and girls with disabilities have become more evident. Many speakers came together to share their findings of women with disabilities during COVID-19 and express possible solutions to the problems. Luisa Bosisio Fazzi, member of the EDF board and women’s committee, expressed concern that many governments have forgotten about their obligations to treaties such as CRPD and CEDAW, consequently leaving women and girls with disabilities behind. Isabel Caballero Pérez, coordinator of the CERMI Women’s Foundation, found a need for social connection during these isolating times and started a weekly webinar called “You Are Not Alone” (in Spanish) to serve as a safe space for women with disabilities to connect and relate to each other.

Dr. Monjurul Kabir, who works for UN Women, explained that many formal and informal services have been cut due to the pandemic which makes accessing essential services for women and girls with disabilities challenging. Joanna Maycock from the European Women’s Lobby expressed the issue that domestic violence has risen as a result of COVID-19 and that women with disabilities specifically vulnerable to domestic violence across Europe. Elisabeth White from the Gender Equity Unit of the European Commission presented the Gender Equality Strategy that highlighted three main goals: freedom from violence/stereotype, equal opportunities, and equal chances to lead society. Finally, we heard from Marre Karu with the European Institute on Gender Equality about intersectional perspective taken when conducting research which allows more to be understood around women with disabilities in regards to COVID-19.

The recording of the webinar is available on EDF’s website.


Moldova receives recommendations from the Commissioner for Human Rights

The Republic of Moldova should ratify the Istanbul Convention, strengthen protection against hate speech and improve access to quality healthcare and social housing, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, following her five-day visit to the Republic of Moldova.

The Commissioner welcomed efforts made by the authorities to de-institutionalise children and people with disabilities, including intellectual and psychosocial disabilities and to bring the outdated legal guardianship system closer to the applicable standards. “I encourage the government to accelerate capacity-building at the local level to offer the necessary community-based services to adults and children with disabilities and promote their inclusion in the community, and to ensure the accessibility of the infrastructure. The same goes for the network of support centres and shelters for women victims of domestic violence”. The Commissioner noted in particular the fundamental role played by civil society organisations in promoting such reforms and urged the government to continue its co-operation and provide its full support to their work, including by ensuring the adoption of the relevant legislation on NGOs, which would strengthen the enabling environment for their functioning… Read more here.

Accessible resources on COVID-19  

More resources on EDF website.

To read 

To (re)-watch 

Calls and consultations

Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor
European Disability Forum

Grant opportunities for women and trans/queer/non-binary human rights defenders 

Need some small, flexible, rapid response grant to support your activism? The Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights (UAF) is an intersectional feminist activist fund that makes response grants of up to US$8,000 to women and trans/queer/non-binary human rights defenders, including those with disabilities, and their organisations when they face unexpected security threats because of their activism or unanticipated advocacy opportunities. Supporting mainly groups that are under-resourced, they do not require official registration and can fund informal and unregistered groups, as well as individual activists in North America, Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East. Its Sister Funds  make grants in AfricaLatin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific.

You can learn more about UAF on their website and apply for a grant on this webpage. For further information, please contact Elsa Saade (  

2020 Calendar


29 - 30 July (online): Virtual International Dyslexia Conference


17 August - 11 September (Geneva, Switzerland): 24th session the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (including review of Estonia and France[cancelled due to COVID-19]


17 August - 11 September (Geneva, Switzerland): 24th session the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (including review of Estonia and France)  [cancelled due to COVID-19]

14 - 18 September (Geneva, Switzerland): 14th pre-sessional working group of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [online meetings due to COVID-19]

The European Disability Forum is an independent NGO that defends the rights of over 100 million Europeans with disabilities. EDF is a unique platform which brings together representative organisation of persons with disabilities from across Europe. EDF is run by persons with disabilities and their families. We are a front runner for disability rights. We are a strong, united voice of persons with disabilities in Europe.

Visit EDF website

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Copyright © 2020 European Disability Forum, All rights reserved.

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Director of publication: Marine Uldry
Editor: Naomi Mabita 
Contributors: Naomi Mabita, Madeline Escourt, Sarah Hull 

This EDF Mailing is issued in English, and is addressed to EDF Members and allies. Readers are invited to reproduce the information provided the source is quoted and that the confidential nature of the information is respected. Please note that EDF cannot be held responsible for the content of external websites.
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