This ‘tips sheet’ provides an insight to Gender-based violence (GBV) practitioners, on the risks and barriers that persons with disabilities, in particular women and girls may face during response for COVID 19, and practical action for gender-based violence (GBV) practitioners to integrate attention to disability into GBV prevention, risk mitigation and response efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This note draws on the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, applying these to the COVID-19 pandemic, response and practical tips from experience of HI and collaborating partners in South Sudan.
Disability and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in South Sudan - Globally 1 in 5 women and girls have some form of disability (WHO 2011: 291)1 . Women with disabilities are up to 10 times more likely than women without disabilities to experience sexual, emotional and physical violence, as well as forced abortions and sterilizations 2 .
Violence against women and girls with disabilities is created through the intersection of multiple layers of discrimination linked to their age, disability, gender and socio-economic status. Other risk factors include increased dependency on others for daily care, difficulties to defend themselves physically or verbally, social isolation, misconception about their sexuality and economic dependence. Women and girls with disabilities have limited access to information about sexual and reproductive health and rights, how to protect themselves from violence and where to seek support.
In South Sudan, the full magnitude of the GBV problem is unclear and massively underreported; additionally, no accurate data is available on violence against women and adolescent girls with disabilities and their support persons. Estimates show heightened risks for persons with disabilities, and in particular of women and girls with disabilities3 .
In South Sudan, approximately 98% of reported GBV incidents affected women and girls. 51% are survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) are women. 33% of women have experienced sexual violence from a non-partner, primarily during attacks or raids. 48% of girls between 15 and 19 are married ‘to reduce financial burdens’ or to secure much-needed assets for families with as result higher risks of early pregnancy, complex birth etc. In South Sudan studies indicate that some 65% of women and girls have experienced physical sexual violence in their lifetime4 , physical forms of violence including slapping, kicking, punching, throwing objects, pushing, shoving, dragging or threatened with a gun, knife or other weapon is common among women and girls. The risk of child marriage remains constant due to conflict, the country’s economic situation and harmful social norms.
Persons with disabilities are considered to be “of less value”. They are less likely to disclose or report the attack because of shame, fear of family/community members who are often the perpetrators, or because the subject is still perceived as a taboo. The combination of these factors makes women and girls with disabilities an easy target of all kind of violence and those with sensorial impairments and intellectual disabilities have been identified as being particularly at high risk. . Additionally, they are exposed to early/forced marriage and pregnancy, as in the eyes of the community, marriage helps remove the ‘stigma’ of disability and financial provisions for girls with disabilities. But in another hand we also know that it increases risk of Intimate partner violence (IPV). About 82% of the population in South Sudan is poor5
. Data is showing that people with disabilities are ‘poorer than their peers in terms of access to education, access to healthcare, employment, income, social support and civic involvement. Social and economic exclusion mean that women and girls with disabilities have fewer resources and are less able/likely to seek support and redress for violence they experience.
- Caregivers of persons with disabilities especially women and girls are also at high risk to suffer from socio-economical exclusion and violence (especially IPV and Sexual abuse and exploitation). Mothers of children with disabilities are often stigmatized and rejected by their families. Their economic opportunities are reduced since they have the responsibility of taking care of persons with disabilities.