Gender and disability.

Did you know that women have a larger chance of getting seriously injured in a car crash when compared to men? Yeah, it is true according to the American Public Health Association. This fact holds true even when wearing seat belts. The reason is that car safety features are being designed mostly based on male models and women are on average smaller than the average men. This is a classic case of exclusion and thus discrimination.

In today’s world we are all aware of what gender discrimination is because of its widespread prevalence. It is the unequal treatment of someone based on their gender. Gender discrimination exists in hiring, earnings, career growth, the ability to own property, education, and so on. More often women earn only 84.6% of what a men earn for similar working hours. Similarly, women may have to work for a longer duration to receive a promotion. And it is also said that gender discrimination is much more pronounced in the top of the hierarchy in any organization than at the lower end. It even has a name, the glass ceiling effect. The effects of gender discrimination are usually compounded by other kinds of discrimination.

Gender inequality is present in education too. On average more boys are able to access higher education than girls around the world. According to the Global Campaign for Education,

  • Nearly four in 10 girls reported being made fun of because they are a girl, compared to under one in ten for boys
  • Girls were generally seen as better at ‘soft’ subjects such as languages, history, art and music, and boys better at sports, mathematics and computing
  • Pupils felt that male teachers are ‘more intelligent’ than female teachers, but female teachers were ‘more caring’ than male teachers.

Nearly 1 in 3 women are subjected to domestic violence. And almost 1 in 3 women being murdered is murdered by an intimate partner according to DC Coalition against domestic violence. And shockingly, according to one study, the leading cause for death of pregnant women was being murdered. Women had to fight for right to property, right to vote and many more rights that should have been given to them in the first place.

“Afghanistan allows mothers’ names on birth certificates in ‘significant’ milestone for women’s rights.” This is a news headline on 17 September 2020.

Let’s take all this into consideration and look into disability. According to the World Health Organization,

“Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.”

Surviving in this world is a challenge on its own even for a person without any disability. Being a person with disability only makes it more challenging. Disability can be a hurdle in almost all spheres of life, relationships, occupation, transportation etc.

Women with disabilities have been described as being doubly marginalized on account of their disability and their gender.” They are at greater risk since they are affected by the effects of both gender discrimination and disability. They are subjected to various types of exploitation like sexual harassment, domestic violence, workplace exploitation etc. They are also more prone to divorce, separation and domestic violence compared to women without disability.

“Women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination,” says United Nations Conventions on the Rights of persons with Disabilities.

In situations where being a woman can be vulnerable, being a disabled woman can be much more vulnerable. Women and girls with disabilities are denied access to education, employment, transportation and housing. This in turn makes it impossible for them to achieve self-sufficiency. When they are not able to support themselves, it leads to dependency (physical, social and economic). Dependency is the leading cause of domestic violence and exploitation.

Women and girls with disabilities are estimated to represent up to 20 percent of the world’s female population. This makes them an untapped resource that can be trained and upskilled to benefit both the person and the economy. They could make a significant contribution to the development of their country.

The level of diversity that is prevalent in among the people of the world is also prevalent among the category of disabled people. They are economically, sexually, socially diverse. This must be taken into consideration while framing any policy that will be of help to the disabled. Women with disability will need to break free of their dependency and lead a independent life in order to lead a life of peace, the people and the governments around the world will have to stand together to make that happen.


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