Need separate data on violence against women with disabilities – Shampa Sengupta
In Newz Hook’s final guest column for 2019, disability rights activist Shampa Sengupta makes a powerful case for maintaining separate national data on sexual violence against disabled women. Shampa is the founder of the advocacy group Sruti Disability Rights Centre and is the Joint Secretary of National Platform for Rights of the Disabled.
3 December was celebrated in India and other parts of the world as International Day for the Persons with Disabilities. From the Centre to the States, there were programmes held and role model awards given to persons with disabilities. Many disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and NGOs organised their own programmes too. The media tried to highlight the issue of disability, either by celebrating the government’s achievements or criticising official apathy towards disabled people.
Disabled women especially vulnerable to violence
One day later, on 4 December, a news report in the Ananda Bazar Patrika, highlighted the rescue of a woman with hearing and speech impairment from a truck driver who had abducted her and tried to rape her. While we congratulate the police officer on the rescue, it felt odd that no one took note of the fact that a disabled women was attacked on 3 December itself! This shows how society treats gender-based violence as a separate issue from disability. The intersectional connection is often overlooked. The silence over the sexual abuse of disabled women is evident on everyone’s part, even civil society, and is appalling. Especially at a time when everyone was so agitated over the rape and murder of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad.
Disabled women remain the most vulnerable to sexual assault. Most of them find it hard to access the apps and smartphones that are promoted as popular safety measures. Neither media nor civil society shows concern despite specific laws and this translates into government apathy about maintaining separate data on violence against disabled women. Many demands have been made by the National Platform for Rights of Disabled, but the National Crime Records Bureau has no data on the violence against disabled women.
low priority to violence against disabled women
At Sruti Disability Rights Centre, an advocacy group working on intersections of gender and disability, we have a project called Pathway to Justice. This maps the violence by monitoring media news. We found that only the English media reports such violence against disabled women. About eight cases get reported every month, but the numbers are obviously much more. We can combat this violence only when we have the data. In the absence of data on sexual violence against disabled women, much of this will remain anecdotal.
Hence, from Sruti, we wrote a letter and email to Smriti Irani, Minister for Women & Children Development, Government of India and, Chairperson, National Commission for Women with just one single demand – “We demand inclusion of data on violence against women with disabilities in National Crime Records Bureau”.
The letter had signatories from 64 NGOs and activists from across India and we hope that this will push the government to support our fight on violence against women with disabilities.
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