Addressing youth and disability: Policies of social inclusion, gender equality, non-discrimination and prevention of sexual violence

By Ariadna Capasso and Maria Faget

Ariadna Capasso is senior program officer for the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) program, and Maria Faget is LAC regional adviser on youth and adolescents.

The rights and needs of persons with disabilities are too often neglected, violated or ignored. This is manifested in acts of discrimination, emotional abuse, and physical and sexual violence, especially among adolescent women. Fifteen percent of people—close to 1 billion–around the world live with a disability, and 80% of them live in developing countries. Many women with disabilities, including adolescents, face unacceptable discrimination. Around 68% of women with a psychosocial disability will suffer sexual abuse before they turn 18. Women with disabilities often see their right to make decisions in regards to their fertility and motherhood curtailed, through practices such as forced sterilization and limited access to family planning methods. These practices are often the result of generalized stereotypes and lack of cultural sensitivity towards disabilities.

Centro de Formación, AECID (Spanish Cooperation)
Centro de Formación, AECID (Spanish Cooperation)

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Spanish Cooperation are developing a joint program on Youth and Disability: Policies of Social Inclusion, Gender Equality, Non-Discrimination and Prevention of Sexual Violence. Between September 2 and 4, Family Care International helped to put together a meeting on disabilities and human rights in which global experts gathered in Montevideo, Uruguay, to discuss the new initiative. Twenty-eight professionals from 13 countries around the globe representing persons with disabilities, UN agencies and human rights mechanisms assembled to review the program’s proposed strategies to address the multiple barriers that prevent young persons with disabilities from realizing their fundamental human rights, particularly, their sexual and reproductive rights.

Participants recommended taking urgent action to promote the sexual and reproductive health of young persons with disabilities, which is essential to the fulfillment of their basic human rights. The four-year program – to be developed between 2015 and 2018—will focus on improved data collection and analysis at national level, mainstreaming sexual and reproductive health and rights of persons with disabilities in public sectorial policies, and sensitizing public opinion in regards to disability as diversity. Experts agreed that the initiative should include the active participation of young persons with disabilities–especially those in the most vulnerable and excluded groups–in line with priorities stated in the new global development agenda and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

View photos from the meeting here.

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