A Tale of a Different Woman

The ordeal of a disable-women

Surely in the present situation, the world is changing for women, from being a global icon, like Priyanka Chopra to a woman sarpanch of a small village, like Vandana Bahadur Maida, the women of India have achieved a significant victory. These victories may not be enough to end the war on patriarchy but its a good start.

Still, in these changing times, women are not authorised for much, they still suffer the discrimination for being a woman and if a woman is disabled her torments are multiplied.

Disability challenges our fundamental notions of reality, the world, culture,

and most importantly, our bodies. It has been mostly viewed as a physical or mental limitation affecting an individual. A disabled person is subjected to some kind of discrimination daily and if it is a woman then the prejudice becomes even more rigid.  Women with disabilities are doubly disadvantaged as, not only do they experience disability-linked discrimination but they experience sexism at worst, that a non-disabled woman may not face.  Being a female and being disabled up to a certain extent is same, as they both are seen as weak, passive and dependent but being a disabled woman altogether considered as incomplete as they ate not even able to fulfil the feminine roles (Like of a mother or a wife) too.

Feminists with disabilities like Jenny Morris pointed out that disabled women were rarely considered physically attractive and Asexuality is naturally associated with persons with disabilities, particularly women with disabilities.

Women with disabilities face violations of their rights at every step of their life. Being powerless, isolated and anonymous, women with disabilities are extremely vulnerable to abuse and violence, both at home and even in institution especially built and designed for them.

Violence in all remains a serious area of concern for women with disability, both as an individual experience and a structural reality. Adding to the greater vulnerability of becoming victims are a large number of other factors, such as the severity of the disability, dependence on the abuser, not able to communicate, easy access to other people working in institutional setups, less or no complaints of harassment, and a wide range of socio-economic and cultural factors that put together the lives of non-disabled women in a patriarchal society. Once abuse has been experienced and a complaint is filed, there are many barriers while accessing justice, including complicated procedures for complaints, and insensitivity of the personnel in the police and judicial systems. Laws such as Indecent Representation of Woman Act (1986) and The Domestic Violence and Abuse Act (2005) are for all the women, but  Women with Disability still face the same amount of abuse.

In a 106 page report by the Human Rights Watch, it is stated that women and girls with disability are treated worst than animals. In a country where gender-based discrimination is prevalent, women and girls with disabilities face multiple layers of discrimination – on account of their disability and gender, are among the most marginalized and vulnerable to abuse and violence. Often rejected by families who are unable to take care of them, many end up in an institution where the women and girls with disabilities face unique challenges – including sexual violence and denial of access to reproductive health.

As per one other report, as high as 75.03% of women with disabilities live in rural areas and are in poor conditions. Most of them are left out of health care and literacy levels are lower. These women are at greater risk of facing discrimination as they are poor and not properly aware of their rights. Women in urban sectors are not privileged too, as most of them face the wrath of the urbanisation and urban poverty. Even great women players such as Under-19 Tamil- Nadu Women’s Cricket Team captain Preethi Srinivasan, who was left, a quadriplegic after surviving an accident, faced an ample amount of discrimination, from her home to her workplace.

There are many differences based on colour, ethnicity, class, sexuality but when disability is added, the reality of subjective experience is rarely captured, leading to further objectification and alienation of women with disabilities. Feminists in India to some extent have also failed to recognise the different experiences of disabled women in this sexist, patriarchal and so-called able society. 

In a country like India where there are countless problems to tackle by a woman on an everyday basis, case of a disabled woman is overshadowed, but this has to change, some steps have to be taken to stop this traumatizing injustice. Though in past years issues regarding disabled women are highlighted by the Indian Feminists in their various movements and different platform, but those are not enough. There are still thousands, if not lakhs, of women suffering from injustice due to their disability.

Women still have the power to reconnect the non-disabled and disabled world together and work as one, for the betterment of their gender and of the world at the same time. A chance is all they need; a chance to prove themselves and live a dignified life.

         ~ By Akanksha Chandra

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