Full 17-Page Text:
The Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women
and Girls with Disabilities
Carolyn Frohmader, Executive Director, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)
Stephanie Ortoleva, President, Women Enabled, Inc.
Sexual and reproductive rights are fundamental human rights. They embrace human rights that are already recognised in international, regional and national legal frameworks, standards and agreements.[i][i] They include the right to autonomy and self-determination – the right of everyone to make free and informed decisions and have full control over their body, sexuality, health, relationships, and if, when and with whom to partner, marry and have children - without any form of discrimination, stigma, coercion or violence. This includes the right of everyone to enjoy and express their sexuality, be free from interference in making personal decisions about sexuality and reproductive matters, and to access sexual and reproductive health information, education, services and support. It also includes the right to be free from torture and from cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment; and to be free from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.[ii][ii]
However, women and girls with disabilities throughout the world have failed to be afforded, or benefit from, these provisions in international, regional and national legal frameworks, standards and agreements. Instead, systemic prejudice and discrimination against them continues to result in multiple and extreme violations of their sexual and reproductive rights, through practices such as forced and/or coerced sterilisation, forced contraception and/or limited or no contraceptive choices, a focus on menstrual and sexual suppression, poorly managed pregnancy and birth, forced or coerced abortion, termination of parental rights, denial of/or forced marriage, and other forms of torture and violence, including gender-based violence. They also experience systemic exclusion from sexual and reproductive health care services. These practices and violations are framed within traditional social attitudes and entrenched disability-based and gender-based stereotypes that continue to characterise disability as a personal tragedy, a burden and/or a matter for medical management and rehabilitation.[iii][iii]
This Briefing Paper examines the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities in the context of the future development agenda Beyond 2014 and Post 2015. It deliberately focuses on women and girls with disabilities in recognition that they are generally more likely to experience infringements of their sexual and reproductive rights given the physiology of human reproduction and the gendered social, legal and economic context in which sexuality, fertility, pregnancy and parenthood occur.[iv][iv] This Paper examines some of the key sexual and reproductive rights violations experienced by women and girls with disabilities around the world. It includes a discussion of intersectionality and multiple identity, recognising that this reality is important to any examination of the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities. It provides an analysis of the cycle of accountability in relation to the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities, looking at the dimensions of responsibility, answerability and enforceability. It poses some key priority considerations for ensuring the future development agenda Beyond 2014 and Post 2015 is inclusive of, and responsive to, women and girls with disabilities all over world. Importantly, as opposed to ‘needs’, this paper speaks to the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities – rights that for far too long have been violated, denied, ignored and trivialised by those in positions to make a difference.
[i][i] High-Level Task Force for the ICPD (2013) Policy Recommendations for the ICPD Beyond 2014: Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights for All. http://www.icpdtaskforce.org/pdf/Beyond-2014/policy-recommendations-for-the-ICPD-beyond-2014.pdf
[iii][iii] Frohmader, C.
(2013) ‘Dehumanised: The Forced
Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in
[iv][iv] Although this Briefing Paper focuses on women and girls with disabilities, it does so on the understanding that men and boys with disabilities who may be subject to violations of their sexual and reproductive rights, are entitled to the same protection against such violations as women and girls with disabilities.