Centre for Internet & Society

A seminar was jointly organized by the Shanta Memorial Institute of Rehabilitation – Odisha, CBR Network and Mitra Jyoti to discuss the intercept between the United Nations Convention for Protection of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on February 4, 2013 at Mitra Jyoti in Bangalore. Anandhi Viswanathan participated in the seminar and shares her experiences in this post.

The aim of the seminar was to explore the challenges faced by women with disabilities and the need to set up a national network of women with disabilities in India. The discussions were led by Dr. Asha Hans of the Shanta Memmorial Institute of Rehabilitation, Indumathi Rao of the CBR Network and Madhu Singhal of Mitra Jyoti.

Participants at the seminar discussed some of the challenges that women with disabilities faced in the country on a regular basis. Violence against women with disabilities was a major concern raised by several participants. It was felt that many disabled women are victims of violence — physical, emotional or sexual in nature, which are perpetuated on them either in their homes or at their workplaces or outside in general.

Health and sanitation concerns of women with disabilities were also discussed. The lack in general awareness of the health and sanitation requirements of women with disabilities and the non-availability of facilities to cater to these needs were felt to be some of the major concerns in this sphere. Participants also felt that the lack of awareness and the general social attitude towards women with disabilities lead to their marginalisation and alienation in society.

Women with disabilities face double discrimination — on grounds of their disability and for their gender. They are not included in discussions on disability which revolve around men with disabilities, or on discussions on women which more often than not focuses on women without disabilities, and unfortunately this “minority” group of women with disabilities is left on its own. The challenges faced by women with disabilities are unique. These are quite different from challenges faced by either by men with disabilities or by women without disabilities. Women with disabilities are yet to be categorised as a separate group by the government for considering and addressing their difficulties.

The participants at this event further felt that the challenges being faced by women with disabilities could be addressed by introducing provisions specific to their needs in the legislations for persons with disabilities. The seminar concluded that two exercises must be undertaken to consolidate the case for including provisions specific to women with disabilities in legislations:

  • Developing a system of including women with disabilities as a separate category in all the data pools being compiled by the government, and
  • Creating a database of issues being faced by women with disabilities on all levels across the country.

It was proposed that a network of women with disabilities be set up in order to create a platform for women with disabilities to showcase challenges and seek solutions. The group felt that the network could play an active role in documenting issues faced by women with disabilities and aid in creating a database of challenges. The network could also play a part in seeking for women with disabilities to be included as a separate category in all national data pools compiled by the government.

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