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In 2020, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and Women Enabled International (WEI), alongside the U.N Partnership for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and eight local and regional organisations working to advance rights for persons with disabilities, partnered to undertake a global study of the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls with disabilities, particularly as related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and their right to be free from gender-based violence (GBV). Through virtual consultations with and written survey responses from over 300 women, girls, men, and gender non-conforming persons with disabilities, their advocates, and their support persons from around the world, we have learned that in almost all contexts—Global North and Global South, in places hit hard by CO V I D -19 and others with a much lower rate of infection—women and girls with disabilities have been left behind. They have struggled to meet their basic needs, to access needed health services including those needed both because of their gender and disability, and have faced disproportionate risks of violence.
Applying the antitorture framework to the situation of people with disabilities during a pandemic is no simple task. Yet, it is an important one, perhaps most importantly in prompting states to prevent ongoing and future violations from occurring. This is an immensely complex legal undertaking, requiring cumulative assessments of legislation, emergency powers, public health policy and vast quantities of data, while also assessing the levels of harm that have been caused, or that could have been reasonably foreseeable. This process, which must remain grounded in international human rights law, necessarily gives rise to complicated questions of law, policy and ethics, and indeed the very scope of protection provided under international law. This anthology cannot answer all of these questions and does not purport to do so. Instead, its single purpose is to promote critical reflection, discussion and debate amongst legal communities and disability rights defenders. Some articles clearly open more questions than they answer, but it is our hope that this collection can stimulate greater levels of action to prevent and redress suffering in the weeks and months to come. It also serves as a launching pad for developing more sustainable, nondiscriminatory public policies which protect fundamental human rights, even during periods of crisis.
Ciara Siobhan Brennan
The report presents the findings from a rapid global survey of persons with disabilities and other stakeholders which took place between April and August this year. The report analyses over 2,100 responses to the survey which were received from 134 countries around the world. The vast majority were received from individuals with disabilities and their family members. Very few governments or independent monitoring institutions responded. The survey collected over 3,000 separate pieces of testimony, many of which manifestly demonstrated a complete failure by states to adopt disability-inclusive responses. This was the case in many countries, regardless of their level of economic development, pointing to a collective failure on the part of leaders.
Ruth Swanwick; Alexander M. Oppong; Yaw N. Offei (et al.)
Disease outbreaks affect women and men differently, and pandemics make existing inequalities for women and girls and discrimination of other marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities and those in extreme poverty, worse. This needs to be considered, given the different impacts surrounding detection and access to treatment for women and men. Women represent 70 percent of the health and social sector workforce globally and special attention should be given to how their work environment may expose them to discrimination, as well as thinking about their sexual and reproductive health and psychosocial needs as frontline health workers.
UNICEF Innocenti's Children and COVID-19 Library is a database collecting research from around the world on COVID-19 and its impacts on children and adolescents.
Read the latest quarterly digest on violence against children and women during COVID-19.
The first digest covers children and youth mental health under COVID-19.
Subscribe to updates on new research about COVID-19 & children
COVID-19 & Children: Rapid Research Response