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Disabled women in Uganda continue to face discrimination

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By Jane Fazackarley     Aug 27, 2010 in World
A report issued earlier this week by Human Rights Watch has highlighted the discrimination that disabled women from Uganda continue to face.
The report is entitled "As If We weren't Human: Discrimination and Violence against Women with Disabilities in Northern Uganda."
According to the 73-page report, women still struggle to get access to the most basic of services, including health care and the justice system. Many women have also found themselves ignored when it comes to the reconstruction efforts in Uganda.
The women can face violence and discrimination from strangers, neighbours and, in some cases, even family members. The women can be denied the very basics such as food, clothing and shelter.
One disabled woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that she was told:
“You are useless. You are a waste of food. You should just die so that others can eat the food.”
Human Rights Watch carried out its research through six regions of Northern Uganda. The country and its people are still struggling after a twenty year conflict between the Lord's Resistance Army and the government.
Shantha Rau Barriga, disability rights researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch, said:
“One of the untold stories of the long war in Northern Uganda and its aftermath is the isolation, neglect, and abuse of women and girls with disabilities.”
“As Ugandans in the north struggle to reclaim their lives, the government and humanitarian agencies need to make sure that women with disabilities are not left out.”
The report is based on the accounts of 63 disabled women and girls. Some of them were left disabled through disease. Others were injured in the war which has left them with wounds from gunshots or landmines. Disability rates are higher in North Uganda because of injuries related to the war and the poor access to medical treatment and vaccinations.
Over a third of the women told Human Rights Watch that they had been sexually or physically abused. None of the women interviewed had received any form of justice.
Shantha Rau Barriga said:
“Women with disabilities are often not given any information about sexual or reproductive health and HIV.”
“But they have real sexual health needs, and they also need to be protected from sexual violence and be able to get justice if abused.”
The women are also more prone to contract HIV. Candace, a woman with HIV told Human Rights Watch of some of discrimination that she has faced:
“I cannot bathe near others.”
“My neighbors think that the water that comes off of me has HIV in it. They say I will get the community sick if they touch the water. There has been HIV sensitization in the community but there is no real change in attitudes.”
The report makes several recommendations. Among them are that the government deal with the needs of disabled women and provide them with access to government health programmes.
The report also advises that aid organisations work alongside groups that represent disabled people to make sure they can access support services.
Shantha Rau Barriga said:
“The war has hidden and compounded the isolation and discrimination against women and girls with disabilities."
“But now the government has a special opportunity – and a special responsibility – to meet their needs.”
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