Time for focus on women with disabilities
Sir, – 2018 was a landmark year for the rights of women with disabilities – March 7th saw the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and on May 25th, the people of Ireland voted to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution, thus removing a law that disproportionately affected individuals with disabilities.
These are most welcome developments but much more is needed. Women with disabilities have often been invisible in discourse on gender equality. There has been little attention paid to the intersection of gender and disability or to addressing the specific concerns of women with disabilities. Where the needs of women with disabilities have been highlighted, it is usually in the context of health issues. This reinforces a medicalised approach, seeing women with disabilities as primarily having health needs rather than an emphasis on their right to participate in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural life of their communities.
Women with disabilities experience the same inequalities as non-disabled women. However, their situations can be exacerbated by social and cultural attitudes to disability as well as environmental barriers. We know that women with disabilities have a lower uptake of health screening, are more likely to experience sexual violence, experience barriers to parenting and that older disabled women are disproportionately affected by the extra costs that people with disabilities face.
Positive steps towards gender-proofing government policy have been made over the past couple of years. The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides an opportunity to review law and policy in Ireland through the lens of disability rights as well.
It’s time for a renewed effort by the State to ensure law and policy supports and upholds the rights of all women, including women with disabilities. – Yours, etc,
and Information Manager,
Foley Street, Dublin 1.