Discrimination against women with disabilities, Muriel GRIMMEISSEN


November 7-9, 2003
Hotel “Golden Tulip Holiday”, Zagreb, Croatia
TITLE: : Discrimination against women with disabilities. Council of Europe Publishing. 2003
AUTHOR: Muriel GRIMMEISSEN, Secretary and Chair of the Drafting Group on discrimination against women with disabilities. Department of health and of the Partial Agreement in the social and public health field. Directorate general III – Social cohesion. Council of Europe
CONTACT DETAILS: F-67075 STRASBOURG CEDEX tel: +33 3 88 41 28 19
Fax : +33 3 88 41 27 32  e-mail: muriel.grimmeissen@coe.int


The situation of women with disabilities in Europe has to date been given neither as much publicity nor as much political importance as it deserves. A drafting group, made up mainly of women with disabilities, therefore recently examined, compiled a list of and analysed aspects of discrimination against women with disabilities and proposed instruments, measures and activities to guarantee equal opportunities. The report, entitled “Discrimination against Women with Disabilities”, has been presented to the Second European Conference of Ministers responsible for Integration Policies for People with Disabilities (Malaga, 7-8 May 2003 in). It is being published and will be available before the end of the year 2003.
A number of areas have been identified as crucial: education and training, employment, social policy, participation and access to decision-making, sexuality, prejudices and society’s perception of women with disabilities, motherhood, community and domestic life, and violence. Numerous forms of discrimination against these women are described and illustrated by case-studies.
For example, failure to offer vocational rehabilitation after an accident is more readily accepted if the victim is a woman rather than a man. As regards financial independence, people are more likely to think that women with disabilities should be financially supported by someone even if they have the ability to study and work. In a society that places a premium on female youth and beauty it is not easy to be a woman with a disability. A man’s right to sexuality is readily accepted but women with disabilities are often seen as sexless, although they are sexually abused more frequently. In certain respects they are victims of the fact that they are women, whereas in others this very fact goes unacknowledged. They are denied the right to found a family, but they are often obliged to take care of the family they were born into. Women with disabilities suffer from prejudice and ignorance, even on the part of their families.
The policies to be pursued must enable them to live an independent life, to work so as to be self-sufficient, to choose their private life, their job or their family life, to attend ordinary schools, to do ordinary jobs, to visit public and private places like anyone else, and must allow society to benefit from their experience, abilities and talents.
In order to secure equal treatment for women with disabilities, it is not enough to avoid discrimination or adopt positive or compensatory measures, as in the case of people with disabilities in general. Gender awareness, ie an awareness of the concept of the difference between the sexes, must be a prime consideration when policies are being decided upon in all fields. There must also be a conscious effort to achieve equality.