Our Work: Access to Justice

  • May 1, 2017 WEI Submission to OHCHR on Access to Justice for Women and Girls with Disabilities  

    This submission provides guidance on the rights of women and girls to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for its forthcoming report to the Human Rights Council on Article 13 (access to justice) of the U.N Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Because women and girls with disabilities are subjected to gender-based violence, including unique forms of violence such as forced sterilization or abortion, experience violence at higher rates than other women, access to justice following this is especially important for ensuring their rights. Women and girls with disabilities, however, also face myriad barriers to accessing justice due to both their gender and disability. These include legal barriers, as courts may not recognize them as competent witnesses or the justice system may not recognize the violence committed against them as crimes. They also include accessibility barriers, including physical, informational, and communications accessibility. Women and girls with disabilities may also face attitudinal barriers to accessing justice, including as the result of stereotypes about their sexuality and ability to parent. Finally, women and girls with disabilities may be less likely to afford attorneys or court costs, or may suffer more directly from cuts to social services that support access to justice. Based on these barriers, Women Enabled International provides recommendations to OHCHR for information and recommendations to include in its report.
    WEI Submission to OHCHR Report on CRPD Article 13 Access to Justice & Women with Disabilities May 1, 2017 FINAL.pdf

    WEI Submission to OHCHR Report on CRPD Article 13 Access to Justice & Women with Disabilities May 1, 2017 FINAL.docx
  • January 30, 2017 Women Enabled International Submission to the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings on Domestic Violence and Infanticide Regarding Women and Girls with Disabilities.

    On January 30, 2017, WEI responded to a call for submissions by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Killing to support the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to incorporate a gender-sensitive approach to extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary killing into her work. WEI’s submission provides information on the high rates of domestic violence that women and girls with disabilities face, and the lack of access to justice—factors that can elevate the risk of domestic violence escalating and leading to arbitrary killing. The submission also identifies factors that contribute to heightened rates of infanticide of children, and especially girls, with disabilities. The submission urges the Special Rapporteur to consider how different characteristics, such as disability, intersect with gender to expose women and girls to a heightened risk of arbitrary killings. The submission also identifies core state obligations to address the underlying factors that contribute to a heightened risk of women and girls with disabilities to arbitrary killings, including stigma, a lack of support for individuals with disabilities and their families, and issues surrounding access to protective and rehabilitative services and justice mechanisms for victims of gender-based violence with disabilities. The submission also highlights the challenges presented by the lack of disaggregated data on violence, femicide, and infanticide directed at women and girls with disabilities.



  • April 9, 2014 DAWN-RAFH Canada working to increase access to justice for women with disabilities and deaf women who are victims of crime In recognition of National Victims of Crime Awareness Week April 6-12, the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada / Réseau d'action des femmes handicapées (DAWN-RAFH Canada) is launching a campaign aimed at informing women with disabilities and Deaf women about their right to report abuse and to have their abusers tried in court. Entitled "We Can Tell and We Will" the campaign includes a Public Service Announcement (PSA) which depicts two women with intellectual disabilities and one with a communication difference describing abuse and stating that abuse is unacceptable. The PSA encourages women with disabilities to report abuse and informs them that there are advocates who can support them to do so. The campaign is designed to bring attention to the precedent-setting decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, a court case referred to as the D.A.I. case. It involved a woman with an intellectual disability who reported that her step-father had sexually assaulted her. The provincial court disallowed her testimony on the grounds that she was not competent to testify because she could not demonstrate that she understood the meaning of an "oath" or a "promise" in order to tell the truth. As a result, the accused was acquitted.

    Read the press release in English here
    Lire la suite du communiqué ici français
  • February 2013 Read Women Enabled's submission to the CEDAW Committee for its 18 February 2013 General discussion on Access to Justice for women. Women Enabled calls on the CEDAW Committee to address access to justice for women and girls with disabilities as it elaborates a General recommendation on access to justice for women. Read Women Enabled's submission, click here.
  • Spring 2011 PDF: Ortoleva, Stephanie. "Inaccessible Justice: Human Rights, Persons with Disabilities and the Legal System." ILSA Journal of International and Comparative Law 17.2 (2011).  
  • September 2012 Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development: Generating Innovative Legal Solutions to Development ChallengesPersons with disabilities are often denied access to fair and equal treatment within justice systems.

    – Current practices and challenges in access to justice by persons with disabilities.

    – Emerging good practices that ensure fair and equal treatment.

    – Proposal for a multi-stakeholder knowledge-exchange forum to promote Article 13.

    – Co-sponsored by Women Enabled, the Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development and many others.
       PDF: View the event flyer

  • July 2011 Read UN Women’s Report entitled “Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice.” (10MB PDF)

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For Microsoft Word files of the publications on our website, please contact WEI at:

Stephanie Ortoleva, Esq., President
Women Enabled International
1875 Connecticut Ave NW, 10th Floor
Washingon D.C. 20009