Our Work: Access to Justice, Deprivation of Liberty

  • Sept. 24, 2018 WEI, the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic, and Amnesty International submit amicus brief to the New York Court of Appeals about the right of women with disabilities to be mothers

    In July 2018, Women Enabled International, the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, and Amnesty International submitted an amicus brief to the Court of Appeals of the State of New York addressing the rights of women with disabilities to parent and to be free from discrimination. Harmful stereotypes that women with disabilities are incapable of parenting can unduly influence judicial determinations of custody, placing women with disabilities at higher risk of having their children taken away. The amicus brief, which was submitted in support of a woman with an intellectual disability whose newborn child was removed from her custody before she was discharged from the hospital, details the international human rights standards on disability-related discrimination and discusses what countries must do to respect the right to family for both women with disabilities and their children.

    WEI - Lacee Amicus Final Filed - July 2018.pdf

  • July 31, 2018 WEI and South Africa Partners Submission to the CRPD Committee for its Review of South Africa

    WEI partnered with eight local organizations - Cape Mental Health, Centre for Human Rights at The University of Pretoria, Epilepsy South Africa, Khuluma Family Counselling, Lawyers for Human Rights, Port Elizabeth Mental Health, SA Federation for Mental Health, and The Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children.  The report included anecdotal evidence collected from four local mental health organizations. This submission describes human rights violations against women and girls with disabilities in South Africa, including failure to take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement, and empowerment of women and girls with disabilities or affirmative measures to address discrimination; inaccessible justice systems and procedures; lack of accessible gender-based violence services and other supports and services for women and girls with disabilities and their families and caregivers; institutionalization, violence in institutions, and deficient support and oversight of institutions and other facilities for persons with disabilities; violations of women with disabilities' right to make their own reproductive choices and their right to legal capacity; lack of comprehensive sexuality education and discriminatory attitudes of healthcare providers; and lack of data collection disaggregated by disability and gender.

    Through this submission, our organizations made the following key recommendations:

    • Take specific measures to address the discrimination experienced by women and girls with disabilities and to empower women and girls with disabilities, especially black women with disabilities. 
    • Improve access to justice for women and girls with disabilities by amending laws and policies and providing training to justice system actors. 
    • Combat abuse and violence against women and girls with disabilities by ensuring gender-based violence services are accessible and available in disadvantaged areas; by developing inclusive awareness raising programs; by conducting research on the availability of programs and monitoring programs; and by investing in preventative gender-based violence programs. 
    • Amend laws that compromise South African women with disabilities' right to make their own reproductive choices and their right to legal capacity. 
    • Ensure that comprehensive sexuality education programs are available and accessible to women and girls with disabilities. 
    • Collect data on the issues that most impact women and girls with disabilities and ensure that women and girls with disabilities are included in all data collected about women and in all data collected about persons with disabilities.

    WEI et al South Africa CRPD Committee Shadow Report Submission - July 31, 2018.pdf

    WEI et al South Africa CRPD Committee Shadow Report Submission - July 31, 2018.docx


  • April 30, 2018 WEI, Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative (AWWDI),  and Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) Shadow Letter on Nigeria to the Human Rights Committee for its development of a List of Issues in the Absence of a State Report. WEI, AWWDI, and LEDAP submitted a shadow letter to the Human Rights Committee for its development of a list of issues on Nigeria, to be used in a future review of Nigeria’s human rights record under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Drawing on particular case examples and analysis of current laws, the letter highlights that, because of their gender and disability, women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria face multiple layers of discrimination and stereotypes about their capabilities. As a result, they are denied access to sexual and reproductive health services, subjected to practices like forced sterilization, forced contraception, or forced abortion, and are more likely to experience gender-based violence. Women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria's conflict zones are also frequently left behind when violence comes to their communities, increasing their risk of experiencing gender-based violence, with little access to justice or services. The shadow letter concludes with several recommendations for questions the Human Rights Committee should include in its list of issues to Nigeria, which the Committee will develop in July 2018.

    WEI AWWDI LEDAP letter to HRC Nigeria List of Issues Submission FINAL.pdf

    WEI AWWDI LEDAP letter to HRC Nigeria List of Issues Submission FINAL.docx

  • January 31, 2018 Preliminary Shadow Letter on Poland to the CRPD Committee List of Issues

    WEI and Association for Women with Disabilities ONE.pl submitted a preliminary shadow letter on the rights of women and girls with disabilities to the CRPD Committee to assist the Committee in developing a list of important issues it should address with Poland during its upcoming review in September. This letter highlights gaps in Poland's state report to the CRPD Committee, including concerning gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights, legal capacity, and employment and discrimination. The letter further addresses three reservations that Poland made when it ratified the CRPD—on legal capacity, abortion, and the right to marry and found a family—which disproportionately affect the rights of women and girls with disabilities.

    ONEpl and WEI Submission to CRPD Committee for Poland LOI FINAL Jan 31 2018.pdf

    ONEpl and WEI Submission to CRPD Committee for Poland LOI FINAL Jan 31 2018.docx

  • January 31, 2018 Preliminary Shadow Letter on South Africa to the CRPD Committee List of Issues

    WEI, Cape Mental Health, Professor Helene Combrinck of North-West University, The Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, and Lawyers for Human Rights submitted a preliminary shadow letter on the rights of women and girls with disabilities to the CRPD Committee to assist the Committee in developing a list of important issues it should address with South Africa during its upcoming review in September. This letter highlights gaps in South Africa's state report to the CRPD Committee, including concerning gender-based violence and access to services, sexual and reproductive rights care and violations, legal capacity, access to justice, and lack of data and statistics on women with disabilities

    South Africa CRPD LOI Submission Women with Disabilities Jan 31 2018 FINAL.pdf

    South Africa CRPD LOI Submission Women with Disabilities Jan 31 2018 FINAL.docx



  • November 22, 2017 WEI Submission to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Deprivation of Liberty & the Right to Health for Women With Disabilities. The right to health and deprivation of liberty are linked in numerous and complex ways. The threat of detention that permeates access to certain forms of health care or access to health care for certain populations can have a chilling effect on the exercise of the right to health. For individuals who have been deprived of their liberty, access to acceptable and quality health care can be particularly elusive. According to the World Health Organization and the World Bank, women and girls with disabilities constitute 19.2% of women worldwide, making up a substantial portion of the global population. At the same time, women with disabilities make up a disproportional percentage of the population of women deprived of their liberty, including in both traditional detention settings and institutional settings. This submission focuses on two key areas in which the right to health and deprivation of liberty intersect. Section I discusses how the threat of detention can deter access to essential health services for women, including women with disabilities. Section II addresses gaps in the provision of appropriate and quality health care to women with disabilities in detention settings with attendant health consequences, with a particular focus on women with psychosocial disabilities who are disproportionately represented in jails and prisons. The submission concludes with a few recommendations for how the Special Rapporteur’s forthcoming report can advance the normative framework in these areas.

    WEI Deprivation of Liberty and Right to Health for WWD to SR Health November 22, 2017 FINAL.pdf

    WEI Deprivation of Liberty and Right to Health for WWD to SR Health November 22, 2017 FINAL.docx

  • 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.

    WEI-Submission-to-SR-EJEs-on-Domestic-Violence-and-Infanticide-Women-and-Girls-with-Disabilities-January-30-2017-Final.pdf

    WEI-Submission-to-SR-EJEs-on-Domestic-Violence-and-Infanticide-Women-and-Girls-with-Disabilities-January-30-2017-Final.docx

  • 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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