The key issues about violence against women with disabilities

21 September 2010 - End of September, the Council of Europe is expected to draft the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Therefore EDF presents improvements to make sure women with disabilities will be taken into account in this important human rights text. Read on why gender dimension is important in disability and how EDF is coming across.

Facts and figures


  • 16% of women have a disability in Europe.


  • Women with disabilities face multiple forms of discrimination; to be specific they are at the intersection of gender and disability, which combines to create a distinct experience of disadvantage and discrimination.

Forced Sterilisation: “Since I realized that I had been removed my uterus at the age of 15 I feel like less of a woman”

  • Many testimonies of women with disabilities, primarily women with intellectual impairments or psychosocial disabilities show a hidden reality for many girls and young women across Europe. They are still being deprived of their right to found a family and to their bodily integrity, involuntarily, due to decisions on sterilization or abortion that are taken without their knowledge or informed consent. These are acts of unacceptable violence, and clear violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms of girls and women with disabilities.

We work hard to prevent violence against girls and women with disabilities

During the past months, a number of initiatives have been taken with the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the European Women Lobby:

1. A relevant Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

A Committee is meeting at the Council of Europe end of September to prepare the draft of the Convention. EDF worked together with the European Women Lobby to submit a series of amendment. The priority is to include forced abortion and forced sterilization as acts of violence. This Convention shall apply to all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, which affects women disproportionately. Therefore, the disability movement asks the Council of Europe to consider our improvements for such an important convention.

2. A stronger EU Strategy

On 21 September 2010, the European Commission has released the Strategy towards equality between women and men 2010-2015. EDF contributed to the consultation of this strategy. Ana Pelaez, EDF executive Member and Chair of the Women´s Committee stated: “The European Disability Forum and its member organizations welcome the gender equality strategy as it finally considers women with disabilities as a vulnerable group. Beside, one of the objectives of the strategy refers to the need of women with disabilities to be incorporated to the labour market in order to be able to reach the aim of 75% full employment.”

It is also mentioned -as specific actions- the needs to continue to gather and exchange good practices on childcare and care for other dependants’ persons like the elderly and/or persons with disabilities. These specific actions should be in the framework of the High Level Group on gender mainstreaming in the structural fund. However, only few concrete solutions targeting girls and women with disabilities are proposed.

Over the extensive follow up of this gender equality plan, EDF also contributes to the future EU strategy on combating violence against women. This strategy is supposed to ensure a coherent and comprehensive action to eliminate all forms of male violence against women and guarantee a uniform protection of women’s rights. Common positions have been reached within the European disability movement.

3. Key partnerships

The EDF and its member organisations are advocating to reach gender equality through sharing its expertise with the European institutions and its partnership with key NGO such as the European Women Lobby (EWL). In October 2010, the EWL will celebrate its 20 years activism in Europe. EDF will blow out the candles with them and hope the EU will adopt a strong and inclusive forthcoming strategy on combating violence against women.

Visit the European Women Lobby website