Towards a Gender Sensitive Disability Rights Convention

On June 24 approximately 35 participants in the UN Ad Hoc meeting met to discuss ways to integrate gender sensitive areas of concern into a disability rights convention. Participants represented a number of disability and human rights nongovernmental and semi-governmental entities, from the following countries: Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, Germany, Ireland, India, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa, Sweden, Uganda, and USA.

The group agreed that it was necessary that disabled women and girls be explicitly mentioned in the forthcoming Convention, as they have been invisible for too long in the existing human rights treaties and other human rights initiatives. In particular, the group noted, disabled women’s right to self determination is frequently violated.

A full spectrum of the gender aspects of discrimination and human rights violations was discussed, and the following core areas, corresponding to already established rights in other international treaties, were identified. Examples of rights / violations are cited for clarification and emphasis.


(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articles 2 & 16; CEDAW, articles 2 & 4; Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 2)

Disabled women and girls must be mentioned in an introductory clause covering equality/non-discrimination.

The Equality of disabled women should be compared to that of non-disabled women, disabled men and non-disabled men.

Disabled women and girls must be mentioned in the Equality text due to the well-established double or multiple forms of discrimination they experience in every culture and every economy.

Right to Education

(Universal Declaration of HR, article 26; CEDAW, article 10; CRC, articles 23 & 28)

It is well known that disabled girls have the least access to education of any group and that disabled women have the least access to training and further education.

Right to Employment

(Universal Declaration of HR, article 23; CEDAW, article 11; CRC, articles 23 & 32)

Disabled women are the least employed group, and are often relied on for free labor. When employed, it is frequently under the worst working conditions and for less pay.

Right to protection against all forms of violence

(Universal Declaration of HR, articles 3 & 5 & 12; CRC, articles 23 & 24 & 36; UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993)

This includes physical violence, sexual assault, sterilization, forced drugging.

Disabled women and girls are much more frequently subjected to violence than other groups; are institutionalized at twice the rates of men; and are more frequently subjected to forced treatment and other abrogations of their autonomy.

Right to Protection against Eugenic Health Programs and Practices

(CEDAW, article 16; Cairo Declaration)

This includes forced abortion and sterilization.

Disabled women frequently lose their rights to motherhood and a family life through forced abortions and sterilizations.

Right to Access Health Services and Family Life
(Universal Declaration of HR, article 25; CEDAW, articles 12 & 16; CRC, articles 23 & 24)

In many cultures and countries disabled girls and women have the least access to health services and disabled mothers are often neglected and discriminated against by health and family planning programs. Yet they are the primary caregivers both in the family and in health services. They also often deprived of their own or adopted children.


The group agreed to submit appropriate text for consideration by the Ad Hoc Committee; to initiate contact with CEDAW independent experts and governmental and nongovernmental groups advancing the human rights of women, to request their collaboration in integrating areas of concern to disabled women and girls into their work; to review these core areas of concern in forthcoming conferences and meetings; and to remain in contact to identify other approaches to ensure that the disability convention process and text be representative of and fully inclusive of all disabled women.

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