Volume 1 Issue 4 - October 15, 2003

Disabled women seek their rights

DNIS News Network - Disabled women are often treated as a burden in Indian families, since it is not very easy to marry them off, or even give them equal opportunities in terms of employment, said NGOs involved in advocacy and service delivery of disabled women.

During a session on ‘Women with Disabilities’, organised during the two-day national consultation meet of Asia Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 2003-2004 under Biwako Millennium Framework of Action, women disability activists shared their views and made recommendations on the issue.

The activists raised issues regarding social security of women with disability and how important it is to economically empower them to improve their position in the society.

“Disabled women are the most marginalised lot in the society. Even when it comes to marriage, it has been seen that most disabled women remain unmarried throughout their lives. Little has been done regarding their sexuality-related problems,” remarked one speaker during her presentation on the dismal state of acceptance of disabled women.

Poornima Advani, chairperson of National Commission for Women agreed as to how sexuality is a major problem among disabled women, an issue seldom addressed even by NGOs involved in the disability sector.

Others like Anuradha Mohit argued that while providing rights for disabled women is a daunting task, it is also important to note that poor nutritional state of mothers in general is a major reason for growing disability in India.

“India has the highest rate of anemic women in the world and as a result 30 per cent of the children born weigh less that 250 grams. Often such children are more prone to disabilities,” explained Mohit quoting figures from Human Development Index of South Asia 2001.

She further said that Indian social structure does not allow women to lead a separate individual life and it has been seen that a disabled woman is often dependant on parents, husband and then children at a later stage.

“In Indian society, marriage is seen as a norm of the day. It becomes difficult when a disabled woman does not get married. In India, 73 per cent of disabled women remain unmarried throughout their lives and coupled with unemployment and poor standard of living, they are often treated as a burden in the family,” she said.

The NGOs strongly recommended suitable integration of disabled women in civil society by giving them economic empowerment. It was also suggested that disabled women should be given direct loans under National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation’s micro-credit schemes to enable self-employment.

It was recommended that there should be one per cent reservation for disabled women in education under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, one per cent reservation in government jobs and one per cent reservation within 30 per cent overall reservation for women.

Among other recommendations, a pension scheme for single disabled women was suggested. It was also felt that issues concerning disabled women should be included on the international agenda.

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