OpEd, Politics

Promoting Inclusion: Call for gender and social inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in South Sudan

By Lupai Emmanuel

 

South Sudan has unprecedented levels of violence against women with disabilities. The majority of them are exposed to various forms of violence throughout their lifetime.

Due to the intersecting factors of being a woman, disabled, illiterate, and poor, these intersections put them in a very precarious situation where they cannot help themselves in both the family and community.

This is exactly how gender, poverty, and disability intersect in women’s experiences of violence during their lifetimes. They experience it six to ten times more than their counterparts without disabilities.

The most common forms of violence they experience are physical, psychological or emotional violence; financial abuse; neglect; sexual abuse; and deprivation, with disability stigma playing a central role in contributing to how they are exploited and dehumanized. The construction of women with disabilities as not sexual shapes their sexual relationships and experiences of sexual violence. Therefore, they are at a very high risk and experience more layers of violence than women without disabilities.

These additional risks and layers of violence always go unnoticed and unreported. Due to societal negative attitudes and inaccessibility to the gender-based violence units in the police stations across South Sudan, have left them behind in accessing GBV support services. The lack of sign language interpreters, limited access to GBV information, and the negative attitude of GBV support service providers towards women with disabilities exacerbate their vulnerability to violence in their communities. The perpetrators of violence against women with disabilities are normally their close family and community members who take advantage of their lack of sight, hearing, and limited mobility to commit acts of abuse against them.

As a result of the above forms of violence, women with disabilities face severe consequences like death, self-isolation, self-blame, poverty, infection, STIs, unwanted pregnancy, and many others.

They need to be empowered and protected so that they can speak out and report any act of violence whenever they find themselves in situations of abuse. When they report and intervention is taken against the perpetrators, they will refrain from committing acts of violence against women with disabilities.

An intervention to mitigate and respond to violence against women should be inclusive of women with disabilities in South Sudan. The prevention of violence against women with disabilities in South Sudan needs to address the role of disability stigma that shapes the types of violence they experience, change gender norms, and create an accessible and safe environment and economic empowerment opportunities.

I am appealing to the government, international organizations, and national organizations to promote gender and disability mainstreaming and social inclusion in their GBV programming. To ensure that women with disabilities are protected from all forms of violence they experience on a daily basis.

For further information on how to deal with women with disabilities who are experiencing gender-based violence in the community, seek advice from the different organizations of persons with disabilities [OPDS] in Juba and across South Sudan on how to provide an inclusive service to survivors with disabilities.

 

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