ADDRESSING SRHR CONCERNS FACED BY PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN PAKISTAN.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRFIR) is an important pillar of the human rights framework and the below average results in this area is a poor reflector on the general human rights situation in Pakistan.
Women with disabilities face inequalities in every field of life. They tend to be more disadvantaged than men with disabilities because of "double discrimination," of being disabled, and being a woman. (4) This becomes "triple discrimination" when combined with economic status. (5)
One of the most common problems faced by people with disabilities and especially women with disabilities is the lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education. There is general shyness when it comes to talking about SRFIR because cultural norms have deemed it a taboo subject, consequently restricting people's choices on SRHR issues. It is difficult for girls and women with disabilities to exercise autonomy when it comes to making informed decisions about their own bodies and to negotiate safer sex.
They are prone to high risks of unwanted pregnancies and abortions and are victims of exploitation, sexual violence, prostitution, discrimination, and other crises. Women with disabilities have high unmet needs and demands for their sexual and reproductive health; they lack awareness on contraceptives, abortion rights, STIs and STDs, adolescents' health, and reproductive rights.
The National Forum for Women with Disabilities (NFWWD) (6) is an organisation in Pakistan working to give women with disabilities a leadership platform. NFWWD educates women about their sexual and reproductive rights, including abortion, and a healthy and pleasurable sex life. It provides information and counselling about sexual and reproductive health, including adolescent development and youth SRH issues. It also provides family planning services, and services for those who experience sexual, physical or emotional violence. Additionally, it trains women with disabilities to become peer educators for women who have disabilities and who do not have disabilities in their community, and carries out special campaigns to combat sexual violence and support healthcare, including psychosocial care. NFWWD strengthens legal access to a judicial system for affected women, girls, and boys. It also advocates for SRHR in policy negotiations with the Women Parliament Caucus (WPC) as a particular area of focus within the framework of efforts to promote coherence in combating oppression and promoting democracy, human rights, and development.
Another organization working to create SRHR awareness among people with disabilities is Visionary Foundation Pakistan (VFP), a youth-led organization working in Pakistan. To date, VFP has organized a conference with blind young people, and three symposiums on SRHR and Disability with more than 300 participants; these events brought together cross-sector academics, NGOs, and activists to debate and address practical policy concerns on a range of SRHR issues including: early marriage; late or no marriages of women with disabilities; lack of relationships between young people with disabilities (boys and girls); stigma attached to marrying a person with a disability; the myth that children of people with disabilities will be born with a disability; and sexual abuse of children (especially girls) with mental health disabilities. The event was organised to ensure participation of parents and stakeholders to share their understanding and concerns related to SRHR of people with disabilities, including sexual and reproductive health issues among women with disabilities.
People with disabilities go through a range of issues every day, including stigma and discrimination. They are discriminated and excluded from social, economic and political decision-making in society. Although the Government of Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in July 2011, there are hardly any programmes implemented on SRHR of people with disabilities. However, work done by organizations such as NFWWD and VFP go a long way in sparking new debates and changing attitudinal mindsets towards people with disabilities in the country.
By Rashid Mehmood Khan CEO, Visionary Foundation Pakistan
Twitter: @VFPakistam23 and Abia Akram
CEO, National Forum of Women with Disabilities
Notes & References
(4.) S. Hannaford, "Women, Disability and Society," Interface (1989), 10-12.
(5.) Maya Thomas and M.J. Thomas, 'Status of Women with Disabilities in South Asia,' 2002..
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|Title Annotation:||monitoring national and regional activities|
|Author:||Khan, Rashid Mehmood; Akram, Abia|
|Publication:||Arrows For Change|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2017|
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