Women and Young Persons with Disabilities: Guidelines for Providing Rights-Based and Gender-Responsive Services to Address Gender-Based Violence and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights aims to provide practical and concrete guidelines for making GBV and SRHR services more inclusive of and accessible to women and young persons with disabilities and for targeting interventions to meet their disability-specific needs.
The purpose of these Guidelines is to provide practical guidance to ensure that GBV and SRHR services give full effect to the rights of women and young persons with disabilities. While the primary audience of these Guidelines is GBV and SRHR service providers and support staff, these Guidelines are also intended as a valuable resource for all stakeholders—including those in government, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations—involved in designing, developing, implementing, or advocating for GBV or SRHR services for women and young persons with disabilities.
Critical services for all victims and survivors of GBV include health services (e.g. first-line support, sexual assault examination and care, mental health assessment and care), justice and policing services (e.g. assessment and investigation, perpetrator accountability and reparations, safety and protection, justice sector coordination), social services (e.g. crisis counselling; help lines; legal and rights information, advice, and representation; psychosocial support and counselling), and coordination at both the national and local level.
Fundamental SRHR services for women and young persons—with and without disabilities— include comprehensive sexuality education; information, goods, and services for the full range of modern contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception; maternal/newborn healthcare (including antenatal care, skilled attendance at delivery, emergency obstetric care, post-partum care, and newborn care); prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for sexual and reproductive health issues (e.g. sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, syphilis, and HPV, cancers of the reproductive system and breast cancer, and infertility); safe and accessible abortion, where it is not against the law; and post-abortion care to treat complications from unsafe abortion.
GBV and SRHR Violations against Men and Boys with Disabilities
- Gender-Based Violence (GBV): Men and boys with disabilities have an increased risk of violence, particularly sexual violence. In one small scale study of Deaf adults in the United States, close to 45 percent of Deaf men reported experiencing at least one form of sexual assault or another form of unwanted sexual contact. Men and boys with disabilities experience vulnerability to violence for many of the same reasons as women with disabilities. However, men and boys with disabilities can also face GBV because of perceptions that they are unable to fulfil their expected gender role in society. Moreover, because of misconceptions that men and boys are not victims of GBV, they are rarely identified as needing GBV services.
- Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR): Men and boys—both with and without disabilities—often do not receive SRHR education and are left to pick up information about their SRHR from other men and boys through comments, jokes, and socializing. Men and boys with disabilities face increased isolation and communication barriers compared to their non-disabled peers, which presents an additional barrier to accessing essential SRHR information. These barriers are compounded by the fact that men and boys with disabilities also experience the same forms of exclusion from SRHR services as women and girls with disabilities.
How to Use these Guidelines
- These Guidelines are written for use by GBV and SRHR service providers and support staff at all levels. For the purposes of these Guidelines, ‘service provider’ refers to anyone who is directly providing services to a person in either a formal or informal setting (e.g. nurse, midwife, physician, social worker). ‘Support staff’ refers to administrative personnel, security staff, volunteers, and other people with whom a person may come into contact while seeking or receiving services.
- These Guidelines are primarily directed at service providers and support staff who may interact with a woman or a young person with a disability who is experiencing or has experienced GBV or requires SRHR-related services. Examples of service providers and support staff who may find these Guidelines relevant include doctors, nurses, midwives, social workers, reception staff, security personnel, orderlies, community health workers, prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officers, independent living centre staff, rape crisis centre staff, domestic violence shelter staff, and community group leaders. Self-advocates may also find these Guidelines useful as a guide for what to expect from their service providers and support staff.
- Readers will note that these Guidelines are not written in plain language and thus may not be accessible to persons with disabilities who require simplified formats. UNFPA and WEI strongly encourage service providers and support staff to work with self-advocates to develop local accessible guides containing relevant information from these Guidelines for distribution in their community.