The Disability Observer 2019 Issue 4


By Michelle Mutogo

Sexual Gender Based violence is a concept that has been topical lately as the gender norms are being questioned by community. There is an element of unequal power in cases where a woman is violated. Gender-based violence is violence directed against a person because of their gender.

Both women and men experience gender-based violence but the majority of victims are women and girls. Naturally it is believed a man is stronger than a woman and this plays a role when certain acts are committed. The situation is even more dire in instances where the victim is a woman with a disability. This means they are a double minority group and face multiple discrimination. According to World statistics by the United Nations, 1 in every 6 women is a victim of sexual assault. While this may seem like an alarming ratio, it goes on to state that 1 in every 4 women with disabilities is a victim of sexual assault.

This means that the odds increase when it comes to women with disabilities. A woman with a disability is three times at a greater risk of being raped than a non-disabled woman. They face uneven socio-economic marginalization, resulting in poor access to health services, lower quality of education and general restrictions in their community participation. Women with disabilities are subjected to such injustices due to patriarchal attitudes that are caused by societal beliefs that glorify male domination. Gender Based Violence is also caused by the belief that women with disabilities are powerless and lack adequate family support therefore perpetrators believe they can get away with abusing women.

The myths around sexuality and disability in Africa exacerbate the vulnerability of women with disabilities as some believe that having unprotected sexual intercourse with a person with a disability or a person with Albinism will bring wealth and cure HIV/AIDS. These negative outcomes are provoked by barriers to access to justice specifically experienced by them as they try to get their justice. They therefore have a low justice seeking behavior as they do not expect to be accommodated reasonably. This is the reason why there are many issues relating to sexual assault and why women with disabilities end up reporting after the 72-hour period. This has resulted in a lot of perpetrators getting acquitted when they commit these crimes.

It is important for girls to learn about gender-based violence at school and community level in order to challenge attitudes and social norms that perpetuate violence against girls and women. There is also need to promote values that support non-violent and gender equitable relationships for all, particularly for women and girls with disabilities.

“Multiple Discrimination: The plight of women with disabilities”

By Isaacs Mwale

Multiple discrimination is discrimination against one person on the basis of more than one ground. A black disabled woman, for example, may experience discrimination on the grounds of her disability, her race and her gender”. This is an unusual phenomenon that unfortunately manifests its self mainly in developing countries where women rights violations are systematic.

In Zimbabwe, multiple discrimination is prevalent as women with disabilities are not only discriminated against due to their gender but also on the grounds of their disability. Firstly, it is worth mentioning that since independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has been striving to achieve gender equality and put in place various reforms aimed at the removal of all forms of gender discrimination in society by committing to several national and international gender declarations and conventions. Some of these have included the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD); and the 1979 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and also the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) of 2008.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act (NO.20) of 2013 also introduced progressive reforms to combat gender based discrimination in the form of Section 56 which provides a strong framework for the protection and promotion of the rights of women and men, girls and boys and for Persons with Disabilities. Section 80 of the Constitution protects their dignity and equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities. The Constitution also went a step further and introduced Section 83 which affirms the rights of Persons with Disabilities. Sadly, with all these policy considerations, the problem within our society remains chiefly the lack of implementation. Women with Disabilities remain largely excluded from equal participation in economic and social activities because of long standing backward social norms that consider them mostly as burdens and not advancers of society. They remain the most abused members of our society due to the fact that most perpetrators view them as weak and incapable of defending themselves.

There is need for the crafting of selective targeted policy that is solely manufactured to advance the rights of women with disabilities and to redress the discrimination and prejudice that they have had to endure for many years.

Uccellari, Paola. (2008). “Multiple Discrimination: How Law can Reflect Reality.” The Equal Rights Review, Vol.One.”

Senator calls for Affirmative action in Sign Language Development

By Tinotenda Chikunya

Senator representing people with disabilities, Watson Khupe has said there is need for affirmative action in the development of the Sign Language in Zimbabwe. The senator said this during the International Week of the Deaf commemorations held in Harare recently.

“I therefore call on the responsible government to consider affirmative action, not the case where Sign Language development is moving at a speed of a chameleon”.

He added that there was need for the Ministry of education to prioritize Sign Language in order to ensure Sign Language rights are exercised in all sectors.

“There is a declaration, a syllabus and word of mouth but as a consumer of education services and as Deaf people we will get satisfaction when there is implementation, at the moment we say let’s wait and see”.

Another guest speaker at the event, Josephine Tanda Deputy Director of Special Needs Education at the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education said there was need to incorporate the Deaf in mainstream sports in order to ensure that the Deaf are catered for.

“As a ministry we are concerned with the education of the Deaf. We should work together and ensure that the Deaf community is included in National Sports Science and Arts Festival activities”.

She added that the Ministry had developed a Sign Language syllabus in line with the competence-based curriculum and will be developing the teachers guides, the junior and secondary Sign Language Syllabus.

Deaf Zimbabwe Trust recently hosted the International Week of the Deaf commemorations, an event that saw the coming together of different stakeholders as a way of celebrating the achievements within the Deaf community and raising awareness on disability rights.

The Disability Observer 2019 Issue 4
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