According to the census statistics of 2009, 3.5 percent of the total population in Kenya are people with disabilities totaling to about 1.3 million. Of those with disabilities, 51 percent are female, while 49 percent are male. The largest proportion is physical and self care disabilities (31 percent), followed by visual disabilities (25 percent) and hearing disabilities (14 percent). However, it is important to mention that other estimates do vary considerably across documents. For example, the preliminary report by the Kenya National Survey for Persons with Disabilities released on March 2008 depicts that; 4.6% of Kenyans experience some form of disability, more disabled persons reside in rural than in urban areas, 15% of PWDs are likely to be affected by environmental factors on a daily basis and 3% on a weekly basis and 16% women with disability aged 12–49 years use some form of family planning.
People with disability are subject to multiple and aggravated forms of human rights violation, including the neglect of their most basic survival related needs. It is evidenced that people with disability are more vulnerable to sexual abuse; in most cases they appear helpless when attacked by the perpetrators.
There are numerous factors that may increase the vulnerability of persons with disabilities to sexual gender based violence, any form of abuse and exploitation: these factors include but not limited to;
- Social isolation especially by the family members
- Knowledge of family members or the general public on the subject relating to disability; certain societies and even individual families view disability as a form of curse and therefore may end up locking the disabled persons inside an isolated place and never want to associate with them.
- Attitudes of family members relating to disability; in fact the issue of negative attitude towards persons with disability negates the ability of the person to experience wholesome growth, people still view the disabled as the people who may only need food for survival and nothing else, nobody would want to check on their hygiene status, emotional and physical growth.
- Capacity to share care-giving in the household; this may even be as a result of language barrier, take for instance the dumb whose only mode of communication is sign language.
- Over dependency on others for daily care
It is imperative to cite certain instances where those with disability experience gross sexual gender based violence, many have witnessed those on wheelchair who circumstances force them to be supported or carried while boarding public vehicles. These are the moments where women or girls face sexual harassment as people initially meant to support them who happen to be male in most cases physically mishandle them.
The physically disabled especially those crippled in the limbs who may not for example be in a position to escape an attack/assault, the blind who may not see and discern the intentions of the perpetrators, the dumb may not in any way call for help when attacked. All these forms of disability therefore apparently convey the vulnerability especially for the women and girls who find themselves insecure not only to people unknown to them but even those vividly known to them who take advantage of the victims’/survivors’ situation.
In a nutshell, the disabled have gone through some of the most cruel abuse imaginable including being harassed and physically and mentally which in most cases has led to serious and lasting consequences which include but not limited to permanent impairment, death or a whole range of physical, psycho-social and mental health problems that has negatively affected them.
Women/girls with disability are also mostly affected especially in times of humanitarian crises. They find themselves greatly vulnerable and unable to defend themselves.
It is therefore important for the general public to be aware that disability is not inability; the disabled can immensely contribute to economic growth of their families and society at large. Their human dignity must be respected and never be violated in any form.
3rd December is the International Day for Persons Living with Disability and in 2015 the world says-Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of all Abilities.
Let us celebrate the day within the context of 16 days of activism and address the impact of sexual gender based violence on the rights of persons with all abilities and access to justice for victims/ survivors.