Disability and Gender

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities pays special attention to women and children with disabilities. Countries that ratify the Convention commit themselves to carry out measures to ensure that women and girls with disabilities can enjoy all human rights and basic liberties fully and equally.

Multiple discrimination consists of at least three factors: gender, disability and poverty. In practical terms, this means that girls with disabilities are excluded from education and are unable to find employment and get sufficient income. Poor education history often leads to insufficient understanding of one’s personal rights and unawareness of services. This leaves women and girls with disabilities vulnerable to oppression, segregation and abuse.

The sexual rights of women with disabilities are often threatened.

Women with disabilities are much more vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence than their not disabled peers. However, women with disabilities are often not perceived as suitable wives or mothers. In some instances, women with disabilities may be threatened with a forced abortion. Sexual and reproductive services are often inaccessible or there is no information available to deaf women or women with visual impairment.

Girls and women with disabilities need special support. These are examples of ways to improve the status of girls and women with disabilities in developing countries:

  • studying the situation of girls and women with disabilities in different countries
  • enabling peer support for girls and women with disabilities
  • educating girls and women with disabilities and, for example, health care providers on the sexual rights of women with disabilities
  • launching special projects for girls and women with disabilities
  • including gender perspective in development cooperation in the field of disability
Photo: Ethiopian women with disabilities who are members of a cooperative in Ethiopia. Photo: Juha Valta
Photo: Ethiopian women with disabilities who are members of a cooperative in Ethiopia. Photo: Juha Valta