Creating a Violence-Free Society for Persons with Disabilities; Women in Particular.
The Federation of Organizations of Disabled People in Zimbabwe (FODPZ), stands tall in activism against Gender-basedviolence and joins the nation to commemorate the 16 Days global campaign. Indeed, let us “UNITE! To End Violence Against Women And Girls!”
FODPZ is the national disability voice representing persons with various impairments who suffer in silence due to intersecting forms of stigma and discrimination. We want to specifically stand with women and girls with disabilities as they are more vulnerable to sexual abuse.
According to UN Women, around one in five women has some form of disability.
They are subjected to overprotection by their families which solidifies their invisibility and heightens their vulnerability.
Women with speech, visual and mental/intellectual impairments are particularly at the highest risk as they cannot cry out for help, they cannot see the perpetrator and are often taken advantage of.
The sad reality of sexual abuse is that perpetrators are trusted family or community members. We would want to also take a swipe at religious and traditional healers who prescribe sex with persons with disabilities as cure for some chronic ailments or for ritual reasons.
Noone should flourish by destroying someone’s future. Enough! Stop it! Persons with disabilities face a heightened risk of domestic and sexual violence.
Programmes meant to prevent or address Gender-Based Violence seldom consider the unique challenges experienced by women with disabilities in particular. Without specific attention and targeted interventions, they remain marginalized. This must change!
According to UN women, Women with disabilities around the world experience much higher levels of physical, sexual, and psychological violence, for longer periods of time and with worse physical and mental outcomes as a consequence of violence than women without disabilities. The main factors for the additional vulnerability of women and girls with disabilities include:
Negative attitudes, Their perceived powerlessness to defend themselves or to seek support, nature of impairment, isolation, lack of awareness, a strong bidirectional link between poverty and disability often traded for sexual exploitation and non-inclusive and inaccessible justice leading to limited and/or lack of access to legal protection and redress.
While the amendments to the Criminal Law and Codification Reform Act that provides for mandatory sentence and stiff penalty to child sexual exploitation is commendable, the same penalty must be extended to perpetrators of sexual abuse to women and girls with disabilities. Disturbing is the fact that most abusers of persons with disabilities often go court-free due to their imagined legal incapacity and lack of knowledge by justice officers in handling them.
Development agencies, duty bearers/power holders and service providers need to build into their programmes the right protection for women with disabilities. It will require sustained global focus, momentum, and action.
We commend Zimbabwe for adopting a progressive National Disability Policy which criminalizes all forms of violence against persons with disabilities. We however continue to implore government to expedite the enactment of legislation to enforce the provisions therein. We further applaud government for recruiting Provincial Disability Specialists who will go a long way in increasing responsiveness and the same structures at district level will even do better.
As FODPZ, we stand with other likeminded institutions in saying: (UNITE! Activism To End Violence Against Women And Girls!). It does not matter that we do not have a voice to cry out for help, It does not matter that we cannot see to identify GBV perpetrators, It does not matter that we are not strong enough to defend ourselves,
BUT DO NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE!
“rape and murder are hell twins, if convicted, whether father, brother or uncle, the law must take it`s course without fear or favour!
Inserted by FODPZ Secretariat