WE DECIDE: Young persons with disabilities call for equal rights and a life free of violence

Ariadna Capasso is Senior Technical Advisor for the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health.

Violence against women, including forced or coerced sex, is an epidemic that persists all over the world. But women with disabilities, often marginalized and denied their sexual and reproductive health rights, are particularly vulnerable to such abuse.

In June, UNFPA launched WE DECIDE, a global initiative to promote gender equality and social inclusion of young persons with disabilities and advocate for the end of sexual violence. The FCI Program of MSH worked with UNFPA and a broad range of partners in the field of disabilities to build consensus for the framework of the four-year initiative and to develop communications materials for the initiative, including a video and an infographic that conveys key messages and data on the status of persons with disabilities and gender-based violence.

Photo by the Spanish Cooperation (AECID)
An expert and advocate for persons with disabilities attends a strategy meeting to discuss the new WE DECIDE initiative. Photo by the Spanish Cooperation (AECID)

About 19 percent of the world’s female population, and 144 million young persons, have a disability. Women with disabilities are up to 10 times more likely to experience sexual abuse than women who do not have a disability; around 68% of women with a psychosocial disability will experience sexual abuse before they turn 18. With limited access to reproductive health information and contraception, women with disabilities often lack the power to make decisions about their bodies and their fertility. As a result, they are more likely to experience forced sterilization or abortion and sexually transmitted infections.

To address the sexual and reproductive health and rights of persons with disabilities, WE DECIDE brings together several key organizations of persons with disabilities and aims to:

  • Gather evidence and data on the situation of young persons with disabilities;
  • Create a platform for cooperation and exchange of ideas that promotes rights, social inclusion and equal opportunities;
  • Empower young persons with disabilities through addressing participation and gender equality;
  • Advocate to end violence, in particular sexual violence;
  • Implement standards that address sexual violence and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights; and
  • Promote social inclusion and equal opportunities for employment through engaging the private sector.
Photo by the Spanish Cooperation (AECID)
An expert on issues around persons with disabilities contributes her perspective at an expert meeting in Uruguay. Photo by the Spanish Cooperation (AECID)

Last year, at a meeting in Uruguay co-organized by the FCI Program, UNFPA and the Spanish Cooperation, experts and advocates for persons with disabilities called for urgent action to promote the sexual and reproductive health of young persons with disabilities as essential to the fulfillment of their basic human rights. They championed the active participation of young persons with disabilities–especially those in the most vulnerable and excluded groups–in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Sustainable Development Goals.

WE DECIDE brings additional force to the long-time movement for rights of persons with disabilities. Learn more about the initiative by downloading the infographic in English or Spanish.

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We Decide infographic

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