The history of the Indian women’s movement has been one with a focus on poverty, caste, and employment; social issues such as dowry and sati; population control and female foeticide; sexuality and domestic violence. Its agenda did not include disability.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people worldwide (15% of the world’s population) have a disability. More than half are female.

In India above 11.84 million women with disabilities (WwDs) form a heterogeneous group. Disability and gender also intersect with other categories like class, caste, ethnicity, and rural-urban residence. Some researchers put this figure at over 35 million (Beijing Review Paper, 2010). India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2007. Article 6 of the Convention is particularly relevant in that it recognizes that women and girls with disability are subject to multiple discrimination, and instructs states to take measures to ensure full and equal enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Women with disabilities experienced regular and ongoing discrimination within the society. Such discrimination varied from public comments and insults to institutionalised violence, leading to women being unable to access education, jobs, or other forms of societal support. Families hid disabled daughters away and arranged marriages with whoever accepted them. Within marriage, women reported cases of neglect, punishment, and abuse from their spouses.

Rights of Women with Disabilities in India

  • It is known that discrimination prevails against women with disabilities as a result of forced segregation, socially sanctioned abuse and, stigma, and harm in many ways by service providers, personal assistants and family members.
  • Devalued and objectified they have little rights left.
  • They have low literacy, little employment and low health seeking behavior.
  • They have right to income, adequate standard of living, literacy and health.
  • Right to equality and security from violence in any form (including sexual abuse and torture).

Download : Policy Brief on Women with Disabilities in India (PDF, 186KB)