Women with disabilities are active in advocating for their own sexual and reproductive rights

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Organization … IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA, in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA is implementing the project Capacity Building for Women with Disabilities to Advocate for Their Sexual and Reproductive Rights. The project is being implemented in five municipalities in Serbia: Kragujevac, Raska, Temerin, Uzice, Vranje and lasts from April to the end of November 2020.

Although several international human rights instruments oblige the state to take steps to promote the sexual and reproductive rights of women with disabilities (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Sustainable Development Agenda 2030), women with disabilities are continuously denied information about sexuality, sexual health and reproductive rights and health care services remain inaccessible.

Under regular circumstances, women with disabilities face stereotypes and micro-aggressions that undermine their self-confidence and result in the internalization of an inadequate self-image, in which disability is equated with non-sexuality. The lack of understanding of disability as a part of human experience is built into the health care system, which is also characterized by inaccessibility at all levels, from architectural inaccessibility, through mental barriers of health professionals, to inaccessible communications.

During the emergency situation due to the Corona virus pandemic, it was shown that the measures that contribute to the suppression of the current crisis leave negative consequences in other fields. The new crisis is being exploited in order to reduce human rights, which especially affects multiple marginalized groups, including women with disabilities. The pandemic, as a threat to the entire health care system, puts the protection of sexual and reproductive health under additional pressure, because access to existing support and health care services is limited, and thus the risks of denying choices and deciding on childbirth are increased. The crisis period intensifies ingrained discrimination against women with disabilities, and their established challenges are multiplying.

What consequences can the crisis period have on the already endangered and difficult to achieve sexual and reproductive rights of women with disabilities? Everyone has the right to reliable information and adequate health care, both in times of crisis and after it, because sexuality is an essential part of identity and one of the basic needs of life. The Capacity Building Project for Women with Disabilities to Advocate for Their Sexual and Reproductive Rights is being implemented with the aim of increasing national capacity to provide integrated sexual and reproductive health services to women with disabilities, enabling all people to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. protection of human rights. In cooperation with local associations of persons with disabilities in Kragujevac, Raska, Temerin, Uzice and Vranje, groups of 15 women with different types of disabilities were formed with whom the project team will work. Within the groups, information will be provided on disability, sexual and reproductive rights and the health of women with disabilities, mapping existing barriers, as well as advocacy and lobbying strategies and techniques.

One of the specific goals of the project is the empowerment of women with disabilities in the direction of self-advocacy and active delay in exercising sexual and reproductive rights within their community. Improving sexual and reproductive health is key to achieving sustainable development, health and prosperity.

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