Disability: Human rights issue
HARARE – As Zimbabweans join the rest of the world in commemorating 16 Days of Activism set for November, it is important that disability issues are treated as a human right and not just social welfare.
In the past, the needs of persons with disabilities were handled as just social welfare, but now the tables have turned around as it is a right for a woman with a disability to make her own choice to reproductive maternal health care privileges, access to education and a choice to marry or not.
It is a right to get the kind of a wheelchair she desires to suit her disability; as much as a non-disabled person has the freedom of choice to reproductive maternal health care needs.
It is an offence if the human right needs of any person are violated because of gender, disability or religion.
Most people do not stop to think that women with disabilities experience gender stereotype complications. As we join the rest of world in commemorating the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, let us remember women with disabilities who suffer silently without their stories being told.
The most affected group of these women is those whose hearing and vision impaired and the visually impaired women. This is mainly caused by a serious lack of communication between the victims, the community, family and the service providers.
Where do these women run to or report their cases if they are raped, physically abused or cheated in life? Who understands their language besides themselves?
Even their own family members cannot communicate with them efficiently. How can they trust stranger to relate what has happened to them? Imagine you are a visual impaired woman and someone rapes you.
You have no one to tell because the people around you never think that you can become a victim of sexual violence or physical abuse.
Even the media seldom publish images or stories of disabled women who have been victims of abuse and one wonders how society gets to know about these tragic stories.
Advertisers are also guilty of using non-disabled people on adverts that give an impression that all GBV’s cases are experienced by non-disabled people.
We never see or read on how persons with disabilities survive such trauma.
So which perfect world do they live where violence never exists? These women become silent victims and are quiet when abused, leading to rape cases going unreported.
At times these women live with their perpetrators who could be the bread winners, family or even neighbours.
The hearing impaired are mainly abused because they fail to negotiate for a safe relationship or safe sex. The majority is not well educated and this becomes a big challenge when using contraceptives and condoms as they are not able to read well or follow instructions.
People seem to take advantage of the communication barriers.
As we fight against GBV this month, let us consider women with disabilities and listen to their stories and report on them.
When you educate a person with a disability you remove poverty, stigma and discrimination.
You get the respect from community, the nation and world.
This year’s International Day of persons with Disabilities slated for December 3 under the auspices of the UN will revolve around the theme: “Removing barriers to create an inclusive & accessible society for all.”
Let us all play our part and fulfill this need. This day is as important as celebrating World Aids Day, Women’s Month and all other awareness dates. – Soneni Gwizi
*Soneni Gwizi is a proud Zimbabwean woman living with disability. She is a broadcaster and motivational speaker.