Human Rights Instruments for Women with Disabilities

Image shows the cover of CEDAW Made Easy: Questions & Answers Booklet which contains a picture of a woman with a large basket of lettuce in front of her and with lettuce leaves in her hands. A second picture shows a young woman in a white shirt looking thoughtful.

Women and girls with disabilities face discrimination and accessibility barriers both related to their disability and also related to their gender. Many programs meant to benefit women are inaccessible for women with disabilities. Meanwhile, programs meant to benefit people with disabilities may not meet the needs of women or girls with disabilities.

Protecting the human rights of women and girls with disabilities may require using human rights instruments for people with disabilities in conjunction with human rights instruments for women.

Using the CRPD for Women and Girls with Disabilities

  • Paragraph q in the preamble of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes that women and girls with disabilities are often at greater risk of violence, abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
  • Article 3 in the CRPD includes “equality between men and women” as one of the underlying principles to be upheld throughout the CRPD.
  • Article 6 in the CRPD calls upon state parties to recognize that women and girls with disabilities experience multiple discrimination. It requires countries ratifying the CRPD to work to ensure that women with disabilities can fully enjoy all human rights and freedoms.
  • Section 5 in Article 16 in the CRPD on Freedom from Exploitation, Violence, and Abuse requires states parties to create legislation and policies to identify, investigate, and prosecute violence against people with disabilities. It also indicates that these should include women- and child-focused legislation and policies.
  • Paragraph b in Section 2 in Article 28 in the CRPD on Adequate Standard of Living and Social Protection requires that people with disabilities, particularly women and girls with disabilities, have access to social protection and poverty reduction programs.

All of these articles, but particularly Article 6, can be used to explain why it is appropriate to pay particular attention to the human rights needs of women and girls with disabilities. This includes taking steps to ensure that women and girls with disabilities benefit from the protections of the CRPD on the same basis as other people with disabilities.

The law section of this website has many materials that can help you use the CRPD in your country. Tip: on the law page, go to the explore filter on the right side of the page. Select the key word ‘international’ under the Scope section.

Using the CEDAW for Women and Girls with Disabilities

The Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) does not contain text specifically addressing women with disabilities. However, in its General Recommendation 18, the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women asks state parties to CEDAW to provide information on disabled women in their periodic reports. The Committee also asks CEDAW state parties to report on “measures they have taken to ensure that disabled women have equal access to education and employment, health services and social security, and to ensure that they can participate in all areas of social and cultural life.”

Since the Committee adopted General Recommendation 18 in 1991, some countries have included information on women and girls with disabilities in their CEDAW reports to the committee. Disability organizations also have written shadow reports for the Committee that focus on the situation of women and girls with disabilities in their countries. The Committee can use these shadow reports to evaluate the overall implementation of CEDAW in the country. Writing a shadow report for the CEDAW committee can be one way to bring wider public attention to the unique human rights challenges confronting women and girls with disabilities in your country.

The publication CEDAW Made Easy provides a brief summary and overview of CEDAW for people new to the convention.

Producing NGO Shadow Reports to CEDAW explains how non-governmental organizations can write their own shadow report to the CEDAW committee.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and its Optional Protocol: A Handbook for Parliamentarians can help parliamentarians in your country learn how to create laws that protect the human rights of women. When focusing on the legislation needs of women and girls with disabilities, it may be best to use this handbook in conjunction with Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Other Human Rights Instruments for Women 

Other human rights instruments for women that may be worth reviewing include:

  • Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women
  • Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict
  • Convention on the Political Rights of Women
  • Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others
  • Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
  • Maternity Protection Convention
  • Convention on the Nationality of Married Women