Saturday, February 16, 2008

Human Rights Watch on Women and Girls with Disabilities

To see the full page, go to: The page includes the following list:
  • Disabled women's sexual and reproductive rights are grossly abused. They experience forced sterilization; forced abortion due to discriminatory attitudes about their parenting abilities; and denial of information about reproductive health and contraceptives. When seeking reproductive health care, disabled women often face abusive treatment at the hands of physicians who do not understand their particular circumstances. A study in the U.S. showed that women with disabilities were significantly less likely to receive pelvic exams than non-disabled women.
  • Disabled women also face limitations on their rights to marry and found a family, and often lose of custody of their children. In some countries, it is almost impossible for disabled women to adopt children.
  • Disabled women face high rates of violence, both at the hands of family members and of personal assistants. Their dependence on their caregivers makes it even more difficult for them to pursue a remedy than for non-disabled women. Even where shelters are available for survivors of domestic violence, they are rarely accessible for disabled women. Research indicates that the violence faced by disabled women may be more chronic and severe, and takes some unique forms, such as withholding of essential care and medication. It seems also to be more prevalent: surveys conducted in Europe, North America, and Australia have shown that over half of disabled women have experienced physical abuse, compared to one-third of non-disabled women. In the United States, children with disabilities are almost twice as likely to experience sexual abuse as non-disabled children.
  • The labor market does not adequately accommodate disabled women, nor are there sufficient laws to prevent and punish harassment – either sexual harassment or harassment on the basis of disability. According the United Nations, only one quarter of women with disabilities worldwide is in the workforce. They are twice as unlikely to find work as disabled men. In the United States, disabled men earned 55 percent more than disabled women in 1994-95.
  • There are reports of high rates physical and sexual abuse against disabled women and girls living in institutions for the disabled. In some countries, disabled women living in institutions are abused at twice the rate as those living in the community.
  • In Africa, where the myth that having sex with a virgin can cure a person of HIV/AIDS, women and girls with disabilities are targeted for rape because they are presumed to be asexual and thus virgins.
  • The combination of discrimination on the basis of gender and disability results in low literacy rates for women and girls with disabilities and low rates of school attendance. UNESCO estimates that the overall literacy rate for persons with disabilities worldwide is 3 percent, and for disabled women and girls it is 1 percent. One source says that less than 2 percent of children with disabilities are attending any form of schools, but no gender breakdown of that number is available. In the U.S., disabled women are five times more likely than non-disabled women to have fewer than eight years of schooling. Particularly for girls who do not attend school, information on reproductive health is less available, leading to the unsurprising result in the U.S. that young women with disabilities are significantly more likely to be mothers three to five years after leaving school than non-disabled young women. Studies in the U.S. also show that disabled students experience higher rates of sexual harassment in schools, and disabled girls face higher rates than disabled boys.
  • Disability benefits are lower for disabled women than for disabled men in some countries, such as Canada. These benefits are tied to work and earning histories, thus penalizing women who face discrimination in the labor sector and lower wages than men.

This list provides, in a nutshell, many of the issues that concern members of FRIDA and the FRIDA network.

The United States Department of State also compiles an annual report on human rights and you can check it out by country at Each report includes a category on the rights of women and people with disabilities.