World Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: No woman with disability should be left behind

25 November 2017
There are 46 million women and girls with disabilities in Europe, representing 60% of the overall population of persons with disabilities. Women with disabilities are 2 to 5 times more likely to be victims of violence than non-disabled women and are subjected to forced sterilisation and abortions against their will. Accessing justice and support and protection services is often impossible for women with disabilities because of accessibility, legal and other barriers. For example, women with disabilities may live in institutions deprived of their legal capacity or the available services may not be accessible to them. 
On the World Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, on 25 November, EDF is calling on the European Union (EU) to protect the rights of women with disabilities. The EU should take concrete actions to end violence, abuse and forced sterilization for all women and girls with disabilities, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
On 5 December 2017, EDF is holding a hearing aiming to raise awareness on ending forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities and call for the prohibition of all forms of violence against women. Find more about the hearing here.
EDF has an active Women’s Committee whose members are women with different types of disabilities coming from all over Europe. Below some of these women explain the situation of violence against women with disabilities in Europe:

Ana Peláez NarváezAna Peláez Narváez

"Women and girls with disabilities in Europe still face violence, abuse and forced sterilisation. They are often denied of their legal capacity and they are not allowed to make any decision about their lives, to report any incidences of violence and abuse or to ask for support. We are often not considered in disability or in gender EU policies. We want to be part of the women's movement and women's policies and make a difference."


Guadalupe Morales CanoGuadalupe Morales Cano

"Women with psychosocial disabilities suffer from violence when placed in seclusion in psychiatric hospital wards. This violence can be both psychological and physical. We suffer from a lack of freedom and rarely have a choice in what kind of treatment (or no treatment) we want and can be forced to take medication. The use of mechanical restraints (for both men and women) are in fact the use of violence and coercion. We have received many reports from women who have been abused when placed in seclusion. This must come to a stop."


Jenny NilssonJenny Nilsson

"Deaf women face serious multiple forms of discrimination at all levels of society and throughout their lifetime, by being deaf, by being women and by lack of access to sign language. Deaf women face challenges to report abusive settings in fear they will not be understood or perceived as not credible by the police or the courts, or that there will not be sign language interpretation services available. Deaf women also face the taboo to report abusive relations with deaf men in our small deaf community."


Luisa Bosisio FazziLuisa Bosisio Fazzi

"The phenomenon of violence and abuse suffered by women and girls with disabilities is extensive and complex. There is an even higher risk for women and girls with intellectual or psyco-social disabilities and those living in institutions. They often have no means to denounce the violence and abuse, because they may be deprivded of their legal capacity, they may not have access to information about their rights or access to justice. This has to stop."


Monique PostMonique Post

"True empowerment is not given to someone, but comes from the inside of a person. What the environment around a woman can do is protect her right to speak out without fear of recrimination, segregation, violence or  suppression. Ensuring that no woman is left behind, regardless of her culture, religion or disability is at the very essence of human rights.

If we understand that we do not understand everything, we could communicate with each otehr with more respect, as equals, eliminating the pathway to violence. For this to work we need to protect the rights of the most vulnerable."


Pirkko Mahlamaki

Pirkko Mahlamaki

"On gender based violence, some progress has been made but it is very slow and women with disabilities are at even higher risk of face violence and abuse. Many support services of women victims of violence fail to be fully inclusive and accessible for women with disabilities. They are failing to fulfilling the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
The necessary outreach to minority women or women facing compound or multiple situations of discrimination is often left to NGOs networks that are eroding under financial pressures. While many actors, particularly civil society organisations, women organisations and active women give their best effort to protect women in vulnerable situations, much remains to be done. For better progress, we need more focus on collaboration among civil society actors, authorities and others."


Zara ToddZara Todd

"Disabled women are more likely to be subjected to violence than non-disabled women. Yet our experiences and voices, when it comes to violence, are rarely heard. Very few services that exist to support women experiencing violence are accessible to disabled women and those which are accessible are often overwhelmed by those needing support. Poor provision and portability of independent living support often means disabled women are trapped in abusive situations. No woman living in Europe today should be forced to live in an abusive or violent situation because they don’t have access to support."


Follow all updates in this discussion on social media using the hashtag: #ViolenceAgainstWomen



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