Access to justice for all women and girls with disabilities - Happy Women's Day!

8 March 2018
International Women's day logo

EDF Vice-President, Ana Peláez Narváez raised awareness yesterday, ahead of the International Women's Day on the rights of women with disabilities to access to justice at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Access to justice continues to be denied to millions of women with disabilities worldwide. Women face all kinds of obstacles when they try to claim their rights in court. Nevertheless, many obstacles still remain to inhibit women and girls with disabilities from activating their rights. These range from symbolic barriers such as negative stereotypes that permeate the work of all practitioners involved in the justice system, to purely material and self-evident obstacles related to the inaccessibility of the physical environment and communication. These obstacles systematically prevent women and girls with disabilities from exercising this fundamental right.

'We, women with disabilities – around 49 million in Europe, and more than 600 million worldwide – know very well what it is like to have our rights breached and to see how little or nothing is done to protect our rights', said Ana Peláez Narváez to the Human Rights Council.

For a woman with disabilities who is a victim of gender-based violence to get her case to go to court can be considered a major achievement if we realise that the system generally tends to lack faith in their testimonies, and especially if the woman has an intellectual or psychosocial disability, or is deafblind. There is also the lack of accessibility at all stages that women who decide to report cases must face, the lack of training of both female and male practitioners in the field and, more seriously, a lack of awareness among many women with disabilities that they are rights-holders.

In addition, we mustn’t forget the thousands of women with disabilities who are currently legally incapacitated and, as a result, cannot access justice themselves when their rights are violated, but instead need an intermediary – a tutor or guardian – to do it for them, and therefore find themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation.

As a follow up to the publication of the EDF and CERMI Women's Foundation report published earlier this year, we call on all EU Member States to publicly recognise the human rights violations to which thousands of girls and women with disabilities have been subjected through unconsented sterilisation in the past and present, and to adopt measures to make reparations for the damage caused by such practises, which are contrary to human rights.

For more news on the rights of women and girls with disabilities, please visit our EDF Disability Voice newsletter dedicated to the celebration of International Women's Day.


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