Women and Gender Equality Policies
Women and girls with disabilities constitute 16% of the total population of women in the European Union. They are more likely to face multiple and intersectional discrimination in all areas of life.
Women and girls with disabilities in Europe
Women with disabilities constitute 16% of the total population of women in the European Union and 60% of the overall population of 100 million persons with disabilities. This corresponds to an estimated 60 million of women and girls with disabilities; equivalent to the total population of Italy.
Women and girls with disabilities face multiple and intersectional discrimination in all areas of life, including, socio-economic disadvantages, social isolation, violence against women, forced sterilisation and abortion, lack of access to community services, low-quality housing, institutionalisation, inadequate healthcare and denial of the opportunity to contribute and engage actively in society.
Women with disabilities are two to five times more likely to face violence. The status of women and girls with disabilities is not only worse than that of women without disabilities but also worse than that of their male peers. This is especially so in rural areas with fewer services and opportunities for this group than in urban environments.
For instance, according to data from 2021 Gender Equality Index published by the European Institute on Gender Equality:
- 22% of women with disabilities are at risk of poverty, comparing to 20% of men with disabilities and 16% of women without disabilities
• 20% of women with disabilities are in full-time employment, comparing to 29% of men with disabilities and 48% of women without disabilities
• 15% of women with disabilities graduate tertiary education, comparing to 17% of men with disabilities and 30% of women without disabilities
• 7% of women with disabilities have unmet needs for medical examination, comparing to 6% men with disabilities and 2% women without disabilities
EU’s obligations to ensure the rights of women and girls with disabilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international human rights treaty ratified by the EU and all its Member States. It commits all who ratify it to implement and promote the full realisation of all human rights for all persons with disabilities through the adoption of new political tools and review of existing policies.
Equality between men and women is a general principle of the CRPD (Article 3). In addition, article 6 of the Convention specifically recognises that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination and requires States parties to “take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms” and “ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of the human rights” set out in the Convention. The CRPD also has to be implemented in light of the CRPD Committee’s General Comment No. 3 on women and girls with disabilities.
In 2015 the CRPD Committee adopted specific recommendations to be followed by the EU in its Concluding observations on the initial report of the EU. The Committee made the following recommendations to the EU on women and girls with disabilities:
- Mainstreaming of women and girls with disabilities perspective in its forthcoming gender equality strategy, policies and programmes, and a gender perspective in its disability strategies
- Development of affirmative actions to advance the rights of women and girls with disabilities
- Establishment of a mechanism to monitor progress
- Funding for data collection and research on women and girls with disabilities
- Accession to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) as a step to combating violence against women and girls with disabilities
However, in practice, women and girls with disabilities are seldom included in both the gender and disability rights agenda. For instance, both the EU Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015 and a Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019 failed to address the specific situation of women and girls with disabilities.
In March 2020, the European Commission adopted a new Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025that includes the rights of women and girls with disabilities in action on combating violence against women. There is still a lack of measures to ensure the rights of women and girls with disabilities is ensured in all areas, including education, work and employment, and access to justice.
Our work on women and girls with disabilities
We work to ensure all our advocacy includes the perspectives of women and girls with disabilities, for which our Women’s Committee plays a fundamental role. You can find more information on the work of the Committee and its role on this webpage.
- EDF position paper on violence against women and girls with disabilities in the EU
- EDF recommendations on the Gender Equality Strategy post-2019
- EDF position paper on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls with disabilities
- Report on Ending forced sterilisation for women and girls with disabilities
- 2nd Manifesto on the Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities in the European Union: a toolkit for activists and policymakers
- Position paper on gender equality roadmap
- Analysis of gender perspective in the disability strategy
Our webinars and workshops
- Using the UN Optional Protocols to defend the rights of women and girls with disabilities (2021)
- Ending violence against women and girls with disabilities (2020)
- The Istanbul Convention on combating gender-based and domestic violence (2020)
- Left behind Women with disabilities during COVID-19 (2020)
Gender equality at EDF
We adopted a Gender Equality Plan 2015-2017 at our 2014 General Assembly. The Plan is a result of our commitment to equal opportunities for women and men through guaranteeing equal opportunities and equal treatment for both sexes and combating all types of gender-based discrimination.
At EDF we recognise equality between men and women and this is reflected in the Forum’s Internal Rules, which holds gender equality to be one of the guiding principles for all aspects of our work, including all governing bodies, staff, committees, and representation. This commitment extends also to our Employment Strategy, which includes advancing equal opportunities in terms of gender.
The Plan is drawn up with the primary aim of achieving full equality between women and men through actions designed to redress the inequalities which still exist between the sexes.