PAPER: Violence Against Women with Disabilities in South Africa

Posted on 18 November 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Cross-Disability, Sub-Saharan Africa Region, Violence, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Some studies suggest that nearly one in three women are the targets of violence from their intimate partners. Women with disabilities are no exception. In fact, some studies suggest that violence against disabled women may happen even more frequently than does violence against non-disabled women. Yet, violence against women with disabilities is rarely studied at all even in rich countries–and studied even less often in developing countries.

One exception is a small-scale exploratory research project on gender-based violence and disabled women conducted by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) in South Africa entitled “On the Margins: Violence Against Women with Disabilities,” (PDF format, 341 Kb) written by Ereshnee Naidu, Sadiyya Haffejee, Lisa Vetten, and Samantha Hargreaves.

Although this research project was small, it helps highlight what has often been an ignored problem perpetuated against an ignored population:

“This exploratory research study on violence against women with disabilities strongly indicates that women with disabilities are extremely vulnerable to gender-based violence, that the violence and abuse they confront is shaped by the nature and form of their particular disability, and that they are especially disadvantaged in their access to the criminal justice system and gender-based violence support services, as compared to women without disabilities.”

Yet, when the researchers asked what services are available to women with disabilities who are the target of violence, the result, although not surprising, was nevertheless worrying:

“While many of the informants from service organisations reached through this survey were aware of and concerned about violence against women with disabilities, their organisations were, in the main, failing to address the needs of this specific, and very neglected, constituency.”

Interested We Can Do visitors can follow the link to download “On the Margins” (PDF format, 341 Kb) for themselves. The paper offers a more detailed discussion of how and why women with disabilities in South Africa are vulnerable to violence. It also describes the barriers they experience both in finding help to escape violence and in seeking justice in the legal system. Finally, the authors make recommendations for what action should be taken in South Africa to address the problem including advocacy and awareness; networking and collaboration; promoting accessible services; and policy, monitoring, and research.

The paper is available in PDF format (341 Kb) at:

For more We Can Do articles related to violence, click on the word “violence” under “categories” in the right hand navigation bar.

[Edit 17 June 2008: Edited to update the link to the paper, which had moved. Apologies for the inconvenience to people who had clicked on the old, incorrect link.]

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