Women with disabilities- A double discrimination in the midst of Violence
By Amy Budu-Ainooson
Being born a male or female (sex) is genetically determined by parents however, the society determines our roles as males or females. Our society is surrounded by imbalances in the roles we are expected to play as individual members within the society. These gender imbalances are not eccentric but inherent in the cultural systems that we are being socialized with from generations to generations. The differences ascribed to the roles of women to men in the society makes them vulnerable, incomparable to men and leads to the violation of the rights of women and girls. The persistence of gender inequalities continues to shape our mental models as a society that men are superior to women, women are men’s properties, women are weaker vessels and women have no right to participate in decision making. An evident consequence of gender imbalances or inequalities persisting in our societies is violence perpetrated against women. There is an extreme high rate of violence against women due to the extensive eminent traditions that support an incredible imbalance power between men and women and promotes gender inequality, superiority of men and low status of women. Practices, values and beliefs embedded in our cultural systems that promotes violence against women includes male dominance, women’s submissiveness to men, culture of silence, culture of superiority, the belief that women are weaker vessels and men’s properties, women’s status in households, forced marriages, wife beating as a sign of masculinity among others.
Individuals living with disabilities are the most marginalized people within our societies. The results of the marginalization they suffer is due to this same cultural system that ascribes disabled people with superstitious beliefs and societal myths such as gods, product of curses , inhumane , spirits, witch, objects of worship among many others that makes them suffer discriminatory acts and stigmatization. These discriminatory acts includes negative attitudes, poor treatment, seclusion, low self-esteem stemming from societal myths and social attitudes, exclusion from mainstream activities and opportunities within the society, victimization, abuse through the form of intrusion, lack of privacy, more extreme exercise of power, coercion and control, humiliation, mocking or ridicule, forced isolation, refusal of basic needs, violation of their human rights and all forms of abuses. The effects of discriminatory attitudes towards individuals with disabilities among other things include low self-esteem, low socio-economic status, low participation in educational and employment opportunities, poverty, isolation and helplessness leaving them dependent and burdens on their family members. Within the social context of disability, violence and other forms of abuse for women with disabilities pose as a big challenge as they are at a greater risk than non-disabled persons due to factors such as discrimination, poverty and isolation, prejudice, dependence on caregivers and lack of social support services which put these individuals at an increased risk for violence. The extent of the susceptibility of women with disabilities to violence can thus, be explained in relation to disability and gender as women with disabilities experience a double discrimination, both on the grounds of their gender and impairments.
The plights of women with disabilities worsen when social support groups and institutions sometimes fail to recognize the forms and the extent of abuses that are reported and may not consider some acts of abuse as areas that need attention for intervention and exhibit negative attitudes towards them. In more serious abusive acts such as sexual harassment or rape, women with disabilities are disbelieved due to societal myths and misconception about women with disabilities as asexual. Women with disabilities live in a more gloomy world as support services for victims of violence rarely targets and includes them in the designing, and planning of their services. This makes them more vulnerable and erratic reporters of abuse whilst they continue to suffer more abusive acts because of fear of being disbelieved, poor treatment and lack of support services. Yet, little attention is given to violence against women with disabilities. Obviously, we cannot blame them for being women and living with disabilities nor can we as individuals or communities change the disability status of women but rather help change the society to make them fit by challenging our mental models, societal attitudes and beliefs that confine women to an inferior status, discriminate and stigmatized against people living with disabilities and in all promote gender equality within our societies.
About the author:
Miss Amy Budu-Ainooson was awarded a Fogarty Postgraduate Award in Public Health for the year 2016-2017 on Violence against Women. She is currently focusing on Violence against Women with disabilities in Ghana. She has a Research and Teaching Assistantship affiliation with the Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies and the Department of Community Health, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, Kumasi. Miss Budu-Ainooson has spent a considerable time in working with the Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies in coordinating disability issues and working towards the rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities. She is a disability activist and gender-based violence advocate. In 2015, Miss Budu-Ainooson received her Bachelor degree from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana where she also had her Post-Graduate Studies in Msc. Health Education and Promotion. Her future goals are to further develop her ” Health education and Promotion” program and research innovations in Violence against Women with special focus on the marginalized and female minority groups.