EU Gender Equality Strategy: include women with disabilities “from the bedroom to the boardroom”

EU Gender Equality Strategy: include women with disabilities “from the bedroom to the boardroom”

On International Women’s Day, we call on EU Institutions to ensure the rights of women and girls with disabilities are considered in all policies regarding gender equality.

We welcome the good example established by the recently published EU Gender Equality Strategy. For the first time, the process to develop the strategy actively involved women with disabilities through their representative organisations and, as a result, it includes important commitments to ensure the rights of women and girls with disabilities.

We especially welcome:

  • the recognition that women and girls with disabilities are more at risk of violence and face multiple barriers and discrimination to access justice;
  • the commitment to ratify the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, a protocol that focuses on combatting violence against women and domestic violence or to propose measures that achieve the same objectives;
  • the recognition that specific measures need to be taken to address forced abortion and forced sterilisation as harmful practises against women;
  • The commitment to gather disaggregated data, including by disability, age, migrant status and rural-urban residence.

However, we consider that inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in the strategy does not go far enough.

  • It fails to ensure full access to justice for women with disabilities, and especially for those who face restrictions in legal capacity, due to obstacles in accessing courts, including a lack of procedural adjustments, and insufficient training of judiciary professionals on gender and disability;
  • The strategy does not explicitly recognise that women with disabilities have more difficulty to access work and employment;
  • The measures regarding gender pay gap, pension gap and care gap do not explicitly address the needs of parents, and especially mothers of children with disabilities;
  • It does not address the situation faced by thousands of women and girls who are confined in institutions because of their disability, and who are at even greater risk of violence, cannot access empowerment initiatives and are segregated from their communities;
  • The press conference was not accessible for persons with disabilities (no sign language interpreter or captioning).

Finally, we also want to thank the European Women’s Lobby for advocating for a strong gender equality strategy that includes women and girls with disabilities. Ana Peláez Narváez, EDF Vice-President and Chair of EDF Women’s Committee, said:

“This Strategy is a good start, but needs to go further. Women with disabilities should be involved in all the initiatives taken under the strategy. We now need real actions to eradicate violence against us, all measures tackling violence against women need to be inclusive, and accessible recognising the disproportionate risks we face to all forms of violence, especially the forced sterilization and forced abortion’.

Pirkko Mahlamäki, Member of the Executive Committee of the European Disability Forum and of the European Women’s Lobby, added:

“I am glad that the conception of the strategy involved women with disabilities. We now need more ambition and specific measures to address violence, employment and income gap.”

Related information

Title quotes EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, at press conference on 5th March 2020.