We launched this e zine last year in October, 2021. We decided against calling it a newsletter because it’s not just about our news but the voices of disabled women and non binary people, showing opinions, reflections and creative pieces.
We had members who wanted the possibility of sharing some of individual pieces so we’ re posting here for easy retrieval later.
We need you here
From Fleur Perry Fleur is a law student and disabled people’s activist living in the South West. Her main interests are accessible housing and Equality Act breaches.
Fighting for your needs and your rights can be draining in every way. You push and push against a sea of eyebrows slightly raised in amused disbelief, or bent into a sharp frown of âHow dare you?â or receive the same flat emails carefully constructed to make âGo awayâ sound like good business. If that seems familiar, you are not alone. You don’t need to fight this alone. Every member of the SoF community has met a barrier that needs smashing. As disabled women and non-binary disabled people, we know the impact it has, what it feels like, and have words for feels that non-disabled people have never had to know. We share those experiences, the bad and the good. We share knowledge and resources and music and poetry, building context and learning from each other. Judgement and shame, intrusive questions and gossip are for somewhere else – not here. Mutual solidarity, inclusion, and making space are key principles. We want you here. We want your opinions. We want your voice. Got something to say that no one’s ever said before? Say it here. Know something that you don’t think will make sense to anyone else? Try us! We want to understand. You will be heard. You will be believed. You will be valued. We think this is the first step to change. If we want to try to do something to make our world a better place to live, it has to work for everyone, and that’s means we need everyone. If we don’t have you, we’re missing out. I think the community is the most valuable part of SoF. The reports and opportunities to campaign on some of the biggest issues in the UK today are all built from the experiences of individuals, and the time and energy they each give to making sure that knowledge isn’t lost, but unleashed. What do you want to say?
âDisability justice is the art and the practice of honouring the bodyâ An interview with Lydia X.Z. Brown
In this interview with Lani Parker of Sideways Times, Lydia X.Z Brown talks about disability justice as a praxis which honours the body and the whole person. Disability justice is a radical framework which requires understanding the interconnected nature of oppression and that we must tackle all forms of oppression in order to change the system we live in. We also talk about differences in language, tensions within disability movements and the importance of using a variety of tactics amongst other thingsâŠ
Read or listen to it at Sideways Times. Thank you, Lani and Lydia for the podcast.
Sarahis a former solicitor, her day-to-day work is research and governance advice. However, Sarah delivers disability equality training nationwide and acts as a consultant for select clients on internal equality working groups.
I owe a great deal to Sisters of Frida.
Years ago, I was asked me to join the steering group and I experienced a major case of imposter syndrome. Looking back – Iâm not going to lie – I did have a lot to learn. I was in my late 20s and feeling pretty unsure about my identity. In fact, I would sometimes feel uncomfortable around disabled people due to what I now realise is a classic case of internalised ableism. I was a feminist, a solicitor-turned-access-consultant, a feminist and had started attending disability rights protests. Sheepishly, alone and stood at the back.
Within Sisters of Frida, I saw myself as the boring but useful person who could help with governance and report writing. In a space with such incredible and talented disabled women, I was just in awe. I listened a lot and absorbed their ideas and critiques like a sponge. Whilst I battled my insecurities, I was made nothing but welcomed and treated as one of the gang.
After helping out where I could, one of the first projects I really got my teeth into was the Serious Crime Act and the defence to the crime of coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. I represented Sisters of Frida at the UN in Geneva, along with other DDPOs, to present evidence of violations on disabled peopleâs rights to the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People. This was one of the greatest honours of my life.
Over the years, my confidence grew but so did my personal self-esteem. I finally felt comfortable in my own skin and proud to be a disabled woman. Whenever anyone asks why, I always credit the experiences I had and friendships I made through Sisters of Frida.
But my newfound confidence in activism was bitter sweet. In 2019, I was about to face a pretty tough challenge: the block of flats I live in is wrapped in cladding like that of Grenfell Tower and riddled with fire safety defects. I knew that disabled people were facing additional financial and safety issues, such as lack of savings or means of escape, so I co-founded Claddag, a disability action group, with another disabled woman. Sadly for me, I knew I couldnât run the campaign and fulfil my commitment to Sisters of Frida so I had to resign from the latter. As expected, the team understood completely and have given me loads of emotional and practical help with Claddag.
If our fight for justice in the building safety crisis is successful, then my first task will be to knock on Sisters of Fridaâs door and ask if theyâll take me back to support with the work. As they are a group of compassionate, inclusive, uplifting and strong warriors and I have no reason to think they wonât welcome me home.
A unique voice: why Sisters of Frida Matters
by Bethany Young
Bethany is actively involved in with Third Sector organisations, promoting equality and advocating for disability rights. She is a SOF steering group member.
People often ask me why I joined Sisters of Frida. Why do you need it? In the past, I have asked the same question.. For years, I had soaked up the idea that my barriers came from having Cerebral Palsy. It was my job to overcome these. My experience of being both Disabled and a girl, then a woman, led to more isolation, and more hurdles that others didnât see. If I could not clear them or ignore them myself I was a failure. It was all my fault.
Looking back, these beliefs I was taught about myself made no sense. I was putting loads of effort and skill into every area of my life â from employment and Independent Living to family relationships and managing my CP. Nothing changed, in fact the barriers got worse. After reaching out for help, I asked myself â maybe the problem isnât me? I realised that so many of my experiences came from the strings attached to me. My CP is mine. My body and my mind are mine. These barriers are not. I felt relieved because my struggles made sense without shame or guilt. Everything I thought I knew about Disability shattered. Such a big realisation gave me a sense of hope and freedom, but also fear. I was starting again. Now I had asked the right questions, I needed answers.
I looked for mentors in the Disabled community to get peer support and find out more. I wanted an active community working for social change. Before long, I found Sisters of Frida â a disability organisation truly led by diverse Disabled women. Their inclusive vision and values, creativity and collaborative way of working all made me want to get involved.
Since joining Sisters of Frida, I have worked on lots of wonderful opportunities. Iâve written quotes for press releases, helped plan events, write reports and advocate for Independent Living. Planning for our future is exciting. We are unique because we recognise people donât exist in clinical, clear-cut tick boxes. Real life diversity is social, human and multi-layered. This idea drives Sisters of Fridaâs work and partnerships. We build relationships to connect with other womenâs organisations. We bring our lived experience, and knowledge to new audiences. I have amplified the voices of diverse Disabled women on current struggles, like Social Care or Covid-19. Our perspectives donât need to stay in an isolated bubble. Together, as Sisters of Frida, we spark better, bolder conversations to create change.
I am proud of all I have learned and achieved so far whilst working with everyone in Sisters of Frida. I am a better communicator, collaborator and activist. Working with these women shifted how I saw myself. I know my worth. I found my voice by listening to them. I found answers by learning from them. I am not alone, because together we are Sisters of Frida.
Sisters of Frida at Brussels ENIL Freedom Drive
Some Sisters of Frida went to ENIL 2017 Freedom Drive,Â which brought together 300 Independent Living activists from 19 countries in Brussels.
Zara Todd, Lani Parker, Michelle Daley and Eleanor Lisney, and Rachel O’Brien (photo by Mladen Spremo)
It brought an an end to a week of promoting independent living, peer support, protest and celebration of disability rights. The Freedom Drive has brought together around 300 independent living activists from 19 countries, from as far East as Albania, to Norway in the North.
Among the main Freedom Drive demands were the end to institutionalisation of disabled people across Europe, access to personal assistance in all countries, full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the end to cuts to support services and benefits for disabled people.
Lani Parker and Michelle Daley said:
We also met some MEPs,Â Anthea McIntyre MEP,Â Keith Taylor MEP,Â Molly Scott-Cato MEP,Â Wajid Khan MEP, andÂ Daniel Dalton MEP, among others to ask them questions on independent living, accessibility, inclusive education, disability rights after Brexit, freedom of labour as part of the EU among other issues.
with Wajid Khan MEP (Labour), Rebecca Farren, Lani Parker, Tara Flood and Michelle Daley (photo by Katai)
Tweet from Molly Scott Cato MEP with Michelle Daley, (Green Party) Keith Taylor MEP, Molly Scott Cato MEP, Tara Flood and Lani Parker
The night before the march we met up with other British attendees for dinner, including Sarah Rennie (Sisters of Frida, Steering Group member) , who had to leave before the march.
dinner with other British attendees of Freedom Drive (photo by Debbie)
dinner with other British attendees of Freedom Drive (2nd table) (photo by Debbie)
We were outside the European Parliament the next day to join the other ENIL Freedom marchers on the streets of Brussels.
Michelle Daley leading some of the way. (photo by Katai)
Thank you all for all who came with us. Thank you for ENIL to organising this and we wish Zara Todd, as incoming director, the best for the future.
Involvement of Disabled Women: Nothing about us without us
The UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) published its concluding observations following its first review of the UK governmentâs compliance with the Convention. We contributed to the report and went to Geneva, as volunteers, to ensure that violations of disabled womenâs rights were given attention. The Committee highlighted many areas of concerns which explicitly or indirectly affect disabled women, but weâve highlighted three key themes below.
1) Involvement of Disabled Women: Nothing about us without us
We share the Committeeâs concern that disabled women and girlsâ rights âhave not been systematically mainstreamed into both the gender equality and disability agendaâ and support its specific recommendation to âadopt inclusive and targeted measures, including disaggregated dataâ to prevent the multiple and intersectional discrimination we face.
Mainstreaming our rights, requires our involvement. We therefore also welcome the Committeeâs recommendation to allocate âfinancial resources to support organisations representing [disabled women]â and develop mechanisms to ensure our involvement in planning and implementing law which affects our lives. For example, we were not consulted on the drafting of the coercive abuse offence in the Serious Crime Act. If we had, we would have been able to show how the âbest interestsâ defence for carers dangerously undermines the rights and safety of disabled women and people with learning disabilities.
Strategies need to be measured, financed and monitored. We therefore welcome the Committeeâs recommendation for mechanisms to support our involvement in the design of strategies to implement the Convention through âmeasurable, financed and monitored strategic plans of actionâ. Measurability requires the collection of disaggregated data and this has been repeatedly called for by UN rapporteurs. Gaps in data mask the multiple discrimination faced by disabled women.
2) Multiple and Intersectional Discrimination
Disabled women experience sexism and dis/ableism in our everyday lives, along with many other forms of oppression (eg. based on age, sexual orientation, economic status and migrant status). Hereâs an example to illustrate. A visually impaired woman cannot access information on an NHS website due to inaccessibility. This is disability discrimination, but is gender-neutral. However, lack of access to family planning services is clearly gender and disability discrimination. If she is actually a teenage girl living in a remote indigenous community, clearly intersections of multiple aspects of her identity operate to exacerbate the disadvantages she faces.
This is why the Convention specifically addresses the rights of disabled women in Article 6. It requires the Government to recognize that disabled women and girls face multiple discrimination. Itâs therefore crucial that the Government implement the Committeeâs recommendation to explicitly incorporate protection from âmultiple and intersectional discriminationâ in national legislation. Whether itâs routine GP appointments, cervical testing or maternity care, disabled women constantly struggle to access medical services, so we strongly support the Committeeâs recommendation to develop âtargeted measurable and financedâ strategies to eliminate barriers in access to health care and services and to measure their progress.â
3) Access to Justice
Our rights are worthless if they are unenforceable or ignored. The barriers with the justice system are procedural, financial and accessibility-related and stop us from bringing claims to enforce our civil rights, count against us in proceedings (eg divorce and family matters) and prevent us from reporting criminal abuse against us.
We therefore strongly support the Committeeâs recommendations:
to develop training for the judiciary and law enforcement personnel. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has already noted concerns about âwomen being deemed unfit mothers for having âfailed to protectâ their children from an abusive parentâ. Ignorant, counterproductive and damaging comments and actions by judges and police must end.
to provide âfree or affordable legal aidâ for disabled people in all areas of law. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has specifically noted concern about the evidential requirements to apply for legal aid and the consequences for family law problems.
The many other areas of concern noted by the Committee can be read here
We were disappointed by the lack of media attention given to the 17-page catalogue of shame but the disabled community, including the DPOs, continue to valiantly highlight the UNâs findings.
Whilst we welcome the Committeeâs recommendation for the UK Government to produce annual reports on its progress, we fear it will be another exercise of denial and lack data, evidence or understanding of intersectional discrimination.
We, Sisters of Frida, are preparing for CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and working with other womenâs organisations on this. In the meantime, we are joining theENIL Freedom March in Brussels and will raise it with our MEPs as to how they will be responding to protecting disabled women on VAWG as the Istanbul Convention is being ratified by the UK government.
“The last time Sisters of Frida went with the UK CEDAW Working Group to Geneva, we noted in our oral statement that women of all ages and backgrounds in the UK are facing threats to their rights but this does not have to be the case if government policies are created in partnership with womenâs NGOs and include a gendered perspective. This will ensure that there is not a long-term legacy of discrimination against women, and will also impact on the future economy.
In 2017, Sisters of Frida note that disabled women are acknowledged as still facing the same level of discrimination in the UNCRPD Concluding Observations. We call upon the UK government to honour its commitment to womenâs rights and work with us to establish a clear and inclusive mechanism in order to bring womenâs voices into the heart of government.â
âWe know that disabled women have been hit particularly badly by austerity policies over the last seven years. Disabled women have lost income through cuts to both specific disability benefits but also to housing benefit, tax credits and benefits for children. Cuts to public services including social care, health, education and transport budgets have all disproportionately affected disabled women.
The Public Sector Equality Duty, contained in the 2010 Equality Act, places a positive obligation on all public authorities to have due regard to the impact of their policies and practices on equality. Despite this the government have failed to publish meaningful assessments of the cumulative impact of austerity on equality.
We call on the government to meet both their obligations under both domestic and international law to ensure that their policies meet the needs of disabled womenâ
“It is known that disabled women are disproportionately subjected to sexual and domestic violence by perpetrators of these crimes, and that disabled women face additional barriers to escaping and staying safe, and even in being believed.
“International human rights treaties require our Government to ensure that disabled women’s needs are specifically considered and addressed when implementing policy on policing and preventing violence. Following the UN CRDP inquiry into the UK’s performance in this area, we need to hear assurances from the UK Government that disabled women’s needs are known and are made part of policy and practice in relation to ending and preventing abuse.”
âLeave no woman behindâ is an important development and human rights goal that is central to achieving gender equality and one to which the UK government claims to be committed. But in the UK this goal remains largely rhetorical as the most vulnerable women – those with disabilities and multiple needs – are rendered marginalised and invisible by increasingly harsh economic and social welfare measures. Disabled womenâs needs and rights are being gravely and systematically violated by the UK government. Why else do we see such an appalling lack of access to emergency shelters, secure housing and welfare rights, education, work, health and counselling facilities for disabled women who are also fleeing domestic violence? If the UK wants to be recognised as a leader in disability and human rights, it must develop laws, policies and strategies that enhance the rights of all women. This means understanding and addressing the overlapping and intersecting forms of discrimination such as race, gender and disability that create additional vulnerabilities and barriers for women. Sadly this government is unlikely to turn its rhetoric on achieving a âfairerâ society into reality but we are ready to stand with our disabled sisters to shame the government into action.
âDisabled women who have experienced sexual violence make up a quarter of Rape Crisis service users – which is an indication of how disproportionately disabled women are impacted by sexual violence, often by their own carers. The voice and engagement of specialist organisations run by and for disabled women, like Sisters of Frida and Stay Safe East, is essential to the CEDAW process in raising awareness of sexual violence to the Committee.â
‘Disabled womenÂ face multiple disadvantage in being able to participate as fully as they wish in all aspects of their lives â social, as well as political and economic .Â The CEDAW Committee made recommendations in their concluding observations to their last report that would improve the capacity of women in the UK to access health care and justice but little has been achieved and austerity policies combined with a lack of specific attention to the issues faced by disabled women, make these more not less distant goals.Â Indeed, disabled women â especially those with learning disabilities who are also likely to experience mental ill-health – continue to face the loss of their babies at birth.
We strongly support NAWO members, Sisters of Frida, in their campaign for focused attention by the UK Government on the needs and concerns of disabled women and girls.’
We would be happy to hear from others, individuals and/or organisations, who would like to join us in our campaign for disabled women’s rights in issues mentioned here. Please comment below or write to firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet @sisofrida
Note: Stay Safe East is a unique user-led organisation run by disabled people, providing specialist and holistic advocacy and support services to disabled people from diverse communities in East London (currently Waltham Forest and Newham) who are victims/survivors of domestic or sexual violence, hate crime, harassment and other forms of abuse.
A âhuman catastropheâ â New UN condemnation for UK human rights record
The UK Governmentâs claim to be a âworld leader in disability issuesâ has today been crushed by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee has released damning Concluding Observations on the UK, following its first Review of the governmentâs compliance with the Convention.
The Observations conclude last weekâs public examination of the UK Governmentâs record on delivering disabled peopleâs rights. The examination was declared by the UK rapporteur Mr Stig Langvad, to be âthe most challenging exercise in the history of the Committeeâ. Mr Langvad raised deep concerns on the UK Governmentâs failure to implement the rights of disabled people. He also noted the governmentâs âlack of recognition of the findings and recommendations of the (2016) Inquiryâ which found âgrave and systematic violations of disabled peopleâs human rightsâ.
Deaf and Disabled Peopleâs Organisations (DDPOs) were hailed as the genuine âworld leadersâ for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on disabled people in the UK.
The UK Delegation of Deaf and Disabled Peopleâs Organisations has issued the following joint statement:
âToday the UN(CRPD) Committee has, once again, condemned the UK Governmentâs record on Deaf and Disabled Peopleâs human rights. They have validated the desperation, frustration and outrage experienced by Deaf and Disabled people since austerity and welfare cuts began. It is no longer acceptable for the UK Government to ignore the strong and united message of the disability community.
UK Government representatives committed during the review to rethinking the way they support Deaf and Disabled People to monitor our rights. We welcome this commitment. Â However, we are clear that our involvement must be genuine and inclusive and that we cannot accept anything less than progress on delivering the human rights enshrined in the Convention, and denied us for too long.
DDPOs have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with following a long campaign of challenging the Governmentâs blatant disregard for the lives of Deaf and disabled people in the UK. The unity and solidarity demonstrated by the Committee and the UK Independent Mechanism in supporting our calls for justice continue to strengthen us.
Michelle Daley, a Director of Sisters of Frida, said â
âThe rights of disabled women and girls have not been systematically mainstreamed in the UK. The UN is obviously recognising this.
The proper collection of disaggregated data has been repeatedly called for by UN rapporteurs. Gaps in data mask the multiple discrimination faced by disabled women.
We welcome the Committeeâs recommendation that the State allocates resources to support representative organisations for disabled women and girls and secure our strategic involvement and contributions in legislation. Perhaps this would, in future, avoid abhorrent situations like the âbest interestsâ defence for carers committing coercive and controlling abuse which the Government introduced without consulting us.â
Â Â Â DDPOs across the UK have worked in coproduction to collect evidence and compile the reports through the Review process. The delegation of DDPOs present in Geneva w/c 21st August 2017 included Disability Rights UK, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance, British Deaf Association, People First Scotland, Alliance for Inclusive Education, Inclusion London, Disabled People Against Cuts, Equal Lives, Black Triangle, Sisters of Frida, Black Mental Health UK.
Â Â Â Contributions were also received from Innovations in Dementia, HFT and Intersex NGO Coalition.
Â Â Â The committee postponed its assessment of the UK (originally due in 2015) to investigate a complaint of the violation of disabled peopleâs rights as a result of welfare reform. This was brought under the optional protocol of the Convention. The findings expressed concern of grave and systematic violations of disabled peopleâs human rights. That investigation looked only at a part of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People â with a particular focus on the impact of austerity measures and welfare reform. The Review looked at a much wider set of issues, including our laws on mental health and mental capacity, policies on employment and education and more.
Â Â Â Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. It is a defence for accused abusers to show that they believe their behaviour was in the victimâs best interests and reasonable.
Disabled Women: Facts and Stats
We often get asked why we campaign for the rights of disabled women. Here are a few reasons.
Employment and Pay
35% of disabled women (and 30% of disabled men) are paid below the National Living Wage in the UK.
Disabled men face a pay gap of 11%, while disabled women faced a gap twice as large at 22%.
Despite qualifications, disabled women have lower participation rates in higher skilled jobs and work fewer hours than both non-disabled women and disabled men.
27% of disabled women are economically inactive compared with 16% disabled men.
Lone parenthood reduces female employment generally by 15%. However, disabled female lone parents are more than half as likely to work than non-disabled female lone parents.
Violence and Abuse
Disabled people experience more domestic abuse than non-disabled people. Disabled women are significantly more likely to experience domestic abuse than disabled men. In fact, one in ten experienced domestic abuse in 2012-13.
Abuse is also more severe, more frequent and more enduring.
Deaf women are twice as likely as hearing women to suffer domestic abuse.
The Serious Crime Act 2015 made âcoercive and controlling behaviour in an intimate or family relationshipâ a criminal offence (s.76). The Act provides that it is a defence for a perpetrator to show that they believed themselves to be acting in the victimâs âbest interestsâ. This was intended to cover carers. We believe this defence risks preventing disabled women and people with learning disabilities from seeing their abusers brought to justice.
Health and Medical Care
UK maternity care does not meet the needs of disabled women. A 2016 study revealed that only â19% of disabled women said reasonable adjustments had been made for them.â
The CEDAW Committee is concerned that âDisabled, older, asylum seeking and Traveller women face obstacles in accessing medical health care and that Disabled women have limited access to pre-natal care and reproductive health servicesâ.
Disabled women, particularly with learning difficulties, are at risk of forced sterilisation in the UK or are encouraged to consent to sterilisation as a form of âmenstruation managementâ rather than be presented with a range of options available to other women.
Disabled women with a mental health problem die on average 13 years earlier than the general UK population.
Nearly half of female prisoners in the UK have been identified as having anxiety and depression. This is double the rate of male prisoners. Whatâs more, nearly half female prisoners (more than double the rate for men) report attempting suicide.
The CEDAW Committee is concerned that ethnic minority and disabled women are particularly poorly represented in Parliament, the legal system and on public sector.
Solidarity message from grassroots Disabled People’s Organisations in the UK for people in #charlottesville
Intersectionality is a core consideration in everything we do at Sisters of Frida. In this case, we are very glad that other DPOs agreed to join us in this statement of solidarity to the people involved at #Charlottesville and in the light of what we see happening in the streets of the USA right now.
A statement of solidarity agreed by grassroots Disabled People’s Organisations in the UK for the people of #charlottesville
We, as grassroots disabled people’s organisations in the UK, are horrified by the violence we see in your cities and the racism and fascism that motivated it, and we are extremely concerned by the failure of the authorities to protect the people on your streets.
We have racism and fascism here in the UK too and we send you our absolute solidarity.
As disabled people, we seeÂ people of colour, people of ethnic minorities and immigrants,Â many of whom are also disabled-Â being systematically abused andÂ oppressedÂ in our countryÂ by our own government, and itsÂ associatedÂ corporations and media.
In solidarity with the victims, their families and the city of Charlottesville (and other cities affected), we declare that racism and fascism, like misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, disableism and religious bigotry, should not be tolerated anywhere in the world.
Sisters of Frida was asked to speak at an event hosted by Soraya Post MEP on Domestic violence against disabled people by the European Network of Independent Living (ENIL) on the 31st January 2017. Here is the speech from Eleanor Lisney ( a summarised version was given as the meeting ran out of time)
Having support for independent living is one of the fundamental needs of disabled people and the structural barriers of being able to exercise our rights is in our battles with social services, schools, higher education, housing, stigmas and discrimination and ableism.
with Nadia (ENIL), Eleanor (SOF), Freyja and Embla (TabĂș)
It seems right that we should meet with ENIL member before the eventÂ – Nadia Haddad and TabĂș ‘sÂ Embla ĂgĂșstsdĂłttir andÂ Freyja HaraldsdĂłttir for drinks to talk before the event.
Embla and Freyja were giving their testimonies on behalf ofÂ the next day on domestic violence against disabled people. Here is their speech for TabĂș.
It is clear that a new definition of domestic violence in itself will not solve the social situation of disabled women and end domestic violence against us. That does not change the fact that by redefining domestic violence legally and in policy can change, for the better, the practices of the police, legal system, social services and violence support networks. Changing the definition does not have to shadow the gender-based approach, it should enrich it. This should not have to exclude tackling of other forms of violence, e.g. institutional violence and hate crime. More so it could draw upon the multiple and concurrent forms of violence that should be beneficial to disabled women and service systems. It could deepen the understanding of which kind of violence affects or actuate other kinds of violence as well as offering a better ground to analyse how structures and cultures encourage and minimize abuse in the lives of disabled women.”
We also met up with all four of the Disabled Survivors Unite co-founders from the UK – Alice Kirkby, Ashley Stephens, Holly Scott-Gardner andÂ Bekki Smiddy. Here is their blog of the day with a audio recording and transcript. There was much appreciation of their testimonies.
Ana PelĂĄez, the Chair of the European Disability Forum (EDF) Womenâs Committee and a member of its Executive Committee spoke on the structual problems faced by disabled women and girls
So the first thing we need to say is that violence against women and girls with disabilities is structural violence that arises from the mere fact that when we talk about their specific situation they are not recognised as women or girls. This non-recognition means they are excluded from policies aimed at providing assistance and recovery for women victims of violence. (Another related topic is the accessibility of these services, but today we donât have time to go into this.)
A second structural aspect of violence against women and girls with disabilities is that in many cases they are victims of legal incapacitation which takes place due to their gender. This incapacitation is part of the process to enable these women to be subjected to forced sterilisation without their consent, or without their realising what is being done to them. This practise is another type of domestic violence in some ways, because it is the families who, in violation of the CRPD and even article 39 of the Istanbul Convention, choose to sterilise their daughters to protect them against unwanted pregnancies. I donât mean to blame the families; they are also victims of the healthcare system, which very often suggests this type of practise. Sterilising a woman means mutilating not only her reproductive capacity, but also her civil, political and economic rights. In addition, the only thing sterilisation achieves is to leave girls and women with disabilities even more exposed to sexual abuse and rape. Even worse, they are also unable to access justice to report the perpetrators or seek remedies, because they have been deprived of their legal capacity.
It was wonderful to meet Madelen LĂ¶w from We Rise Again (Sweden) who spoke her powerful testimony
Madelen LĂ¶w with Judith Ward UK MEP
People who were involved with the event spoke of their willingness to have further collaboration on the topic – we hope so! We will continue to follow the discussions. There was much mention of the Istanbul Convention that we hope will be ratified soon by the UK.
At the European Parliament Panel: Structural problems faced by disabled people, when accessing their full rights
Hearing hosted by MEP Soraya Post S&D : Domestic violence against people with disability
Soraya Post MEP
MEP Soraya Post invited the civil society, NGOâs and Members of the Parliament to a hearing regarding domestic violence against people with disabilities, in order to raise awareness and put the issue on the political agenda
For the panel on Structural problems faced by people with disabilities, when accessing their full rights, Eleanor Lisney spoke for Sisters of Frida and ENIL (European Network of Independent Living)
(a summarised version was given due to meeting running out of time )
Thank you very much to Soraya Post MEP – for this opportunity to speak.
Sisters of Frida is an experimental collective of disabled women. We want a new way of sharing experiences, mutual support and relationships with different networks.
We are seeking to build a/or different networks of disabled women.
We would like a sisterhood, a circle of disabled women and allies to discuss, share our experiences and explore possibilities. So at this moment we remain strictly a female group – female includes anybody who self identify as female.
– unfunded, we focus on issues specifically to do with disabled women âthere is a gap in Womenâs organisations and disabled peopleâs organisations
The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is a Europe-wide network of disabled people,Â Independent Living organisations and their non-disabled allies on the issues of Independent Living. ENIL represents the disability movement for human rights and social inclusion based on solidarity, peer support, deinstitutionalisation, democracy, self-representation, cross disability and self-determination
Speaking on structural problems when accessing full rights for disabled people, I would like to emphasise the importance of access â
Access to education â this includes sex education where disabled people are often excluded, and education is a key to being able to access rights, being aware of rights need you to be literate which leads on to
Access to information â including web accessibility, for knowing whatâs happening and how, where, when to go to for help and make your voice known in consultations
Access to the built environment – physical access and independent living so that you are not trapped in your home or a residential place, having the right assistive equipment and care ( personal assistance.)
Access to justice â you can have the most wonderful legislation enshrining your rights but if you cannot get to them because you do not have the socio economic means, they would might as well not be there â legal aid is essential
Societal attitudes is also an impediment ie. Stigmas and societal discrimination (social model of disability)
Rashida Manjoo : UN special rapporteur on sexual violence said
“Violence against women needs to be addressed within the broader struggles against inequality and gender-based discrimination.” Rape and domestic violence do not occur in a vacuum, but within a culture shaped and influenced by issues such as normalised harassment in public spaces and the dehumanising objectification of women in the media.
Where disabled women are concerned, there is such a low expectancy to have relationships of any kind that they internalized a low esteem, supposing that they are âluckyâ to be in a relationship even if it is an abusive relationship and there is a real fear of care support being withdrawn.Â Disabled women see violence and abuse as âpart of lifeâ : there are high levels of violence, with very low rates of reporting. Violence and abuse happen behind closed doors: at home, in day centres, in residential homes, in supported accommodation, in special hospitals and on mental health ward. Few disabled women access mainstream support services. There is also poor access to justice and often no response
A 2014 study found that only around 15% of rapes recorded by police as crimes resulted in rape charges being brought against a suspect. The research shows that more than 80% of people reporting rape to the Metropolitan Police are vulnerable to sexual attack (women with psychosocial disabilities and women with learning disabilities) but that these same vulnerabilities mean their cases are less likely to be result in a suspect being charged.
Professor Stankoâs (Professor Betsy Stanko 2014) research into how the Police deal with rape victims showed that women with mental health issues are 40 per cent less likely to have their case referred to the police for prosecution than women without mental health issues. Women with learning difficulties were 67 per cent less likely to have their case referred.
âThese women face almost unsurmountable obstacles to justice, their rape is highly unlikely to carry a sanction, and in that sense, it is decriminalised.â
âVictim vulnerabilities effectively protect suspects from being perceived as credible rapistsâ.
Lastly, there is also the intersectional ( such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and immigration status) ) aspect of structural barriers – access is about more than just ramps – my needs may be about faith or culture, or about how you explain things to me, or getting the right interpreter who uses sign language that I can understand. My barriers may be compounded if I am a Indian lesbian deaf wheelchair user for example.
Sisters of Frida works with StaySafe East in London who has years of experience working with disabled survivors. I suggest asking them for advice on best practice on helping disabled people caught in domestic violence.
Having support for independent living is one of the fundamental needs of disabled people and the structural barriers of being able to exercise our rights is in our battles with social services, schools, higher education, housing, stigmas and discrimination and ableism.
Group photo of some of the participants after the event/hearing, Embla, Freyja, Madelen, and Eleanor in the front row. Aaron Isrealson, one of the organisers is in the back row.
Cold, chaotic and claustrophobic at times – but we were there at the Women’s March last Saturday!
Arriving near Trafalgar Square at the end of the march
We sent out this press release on the day of the march
âSisters of Frida are joining the Womenâs March in solidarity with all those marginalised and threatened by the politics of hatred and division. Amongst the many statements that triggered women to march was the mocking of Serge Kovaleski, Pulitzer prize winning reporter for the New York Times, who is disabled.
âWhilst the march was not accessible for all disabled women, Sisters of Frida have been working with the Women’s Equality Party to ensure that disabled women are represented and access improved. Both the Women’s Equality Party and Sisters of Frida will be live streaming and tweeting from the Womenâs March on London to open up this space to those unable to join us today.
âThis is a powerful example of how a movement can amplify the voices of those who are often most marginalised. Disabled women are twice as likely to experience abuse compared to non-disabled women, and we are still fighting for the right to independent living. Disability hate crime is underreported and can go unrecognised.
âDisabled women too often face barriers to fully participating in politics. Today we are demanding that space. We know that disability can intersect with other marginalised identities – including race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. Today we march for a politics that includes all women. Tomorrow we will continue our work to amplify the voices of those women who are too often unheard.â
We had all intentions of meeting up and marching together with the Womens Equality Party but some of us were not well enough given the cold weather, impairment issues and sheer numbers of the people who turned up. It was very difficult to get together even if we manage to get in contact with our mobile phones. Negotiating through the crowds proved very difficult for many even those without a mobility impairment.
Reports of as many as 100 000 women were said to be there at the march and there was a feeling of being united together. There were some questions on the lack of intersectionality on the march and we were disappointed about the absence of theÂ disabled women voices.
We thank the Women’s Equality Party for their support.
With Halla GunnarsdĂłttir and the Womens Equality Party marchers
We were also joined by Liz Carr and Jo Church on the March. A few people send us messages of solidarity to say they could not come but to thank for representing them as disabled people/women.
Roads will be closed from noon to 17:00, so we suggest that you plan for delays if you are expecting to rely on buses or taxis
If you are traveling by tube please be advised that Green Park is the only nearby station that is fully accessible. Â If buses are off this may mean you need to make your own way to Green Park tube station, which is slightly under a mile from Trafalgar Square
Please note that the Jubilee line will be closed on the day.
Buses (likely to be disrupted between 12noon and 5pm)
To reach Grosvenor Square (stops along Oxford Street near Bond Street Station): 6,7,10,13,23,73,94,98,137,139,159,189,390
To reach Park Lane: 2,10,16,36,73,74,82,137,148,414,436
To reach Green Park (stops along Piccadilly): C2,9,14,19,22,38
At the start
WE volunteers will be located at both drop-off points and can help guide you to the starting points, and we will also have a volunteer who can accompany you on the shorter march route if you wish
If you think you might need support, please make yourself known to a WE volunteer before the start. Â We will be wearing a WE logo card on a lanyard so that you can identify us
During the march
Our volunteers on hand to help if you need any support and people at the back of our block looking out for anyone who needs some help
If you would like someone to buddy you on the march, just let us know.
Not sure you can get into the Houses of Parliament on a Saturday to use the toilet.
Marchers taking the shorter route from Pall Mall
There is a shorter route joining the march from Pall Mall, and you are welcome to join the WE/Sisters of Frida block from this point. There will be a WE/Sisters of Frida point person at Pall Mall with a banner. The organisers have let us know that there are drop off points for people joining the march onÂ Pall MallÂ from the north, at the bottom of Regent Street; from the south,Â Waterloo Place. There will be access stewards with green placards here. It is recommended that you arrive by 1.20pm to join the procession.
We hope you will join us – bring your family, childen, pets,Â friends, PAs, support workers. We might not be many but we will be seen. But please self care is important, we totally understand if you cannot join the march.
Send us your photo – a very short message and we will tweet it during the march! on twitter or to email@example.com