SRHR rights of the persons with disabilities: An overlooked issue
In our society, people with disability face different form of sexual violence on daily basis. Because of lack of research, there is no proper data on the extremity of this situation. There are only evidence based incidents which reveals the deteriorated condition. On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3rd December, Share-Net Bangladesh has interviewed ‘Turning Point’, an organization working on the equal rights, opportunities and accessibility of the persons with disabilities in Bangladesh. The intensive discussion with the leading member of the organizations; Jibon William Gomes; Executive Director, Abu Hanif Mohammad Forhad; Advocacy and Networking Coordinator; Shikha Khatun; Advocacy Officer and Olivia Rodrigues; Head of Program focused on the SRHR rights of the persons of disability.
Most of the time, disability intensifies the sexual violence that women usually face in our country. The perpetrator think of them as very easy target to exploit since they cannot refuse or protest. There is also a case that the woman has joined the prostitution after being abused several times. Usually, they are abused by the nearby people including the family member. In the name of securing sexual rights of the girls by getting them married off, they are physically and mentally exploited since their consent is not prioritized in most of the cases. Sometimes they are discouraged to have family since there is misconception about them of being unable to have children for lack of reproductive capacity.
There are many cases where the parents do the menstrual termination of the girls with disability to avoid the risk of being pregnant because of sexual violence. Thinking the cost of being pregnant, the parents do the termination without the consent of the girl. Sometimes, the family do not want to handle the abusive situation like rape, sexual assault etc. for the lack of legal procedures.
The superstitions prevailing in the society allow the people to sexually exploit persons with disability. There are men who think of marrying the women with disability is a social responsibility and keep more than one wife. Also, it is thought that the man will be cured if he gets married to a disabled woman.
Sometimes the boys are also sexually exploited especially in the public place. They are publicly mocked and harassed. Even sometimes they are harassed in front of their family members. People violate their personal space and ask about their private life. In North Bengal, there is a case that a man is forcefully done vasectomy without taking consent. The men are also discouraged to form family since the distribution of wealth is related to this.
The sexual and reproductive rights of the persons with disability is not mentioned in the existing law. The government is only aware of providing wheel chair, crutch for them but no one secures their sexual and reproductive rights.
The government should implement the law to secure sexual and reproductive rights of persons with disability. Awaring people about their sexual and reproductive health and rights should be started from the school level. Also, there also should be enough research in the field level on this issue.
Turning Point has been working in securing the equal rights and accessibility of persons with disability in every sphere of the life. With the support from the government and policy making level, they aspire to ensure the SRHR rights of the persons with disability in every sector.