Europe must do more to protect women with disabilities

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has called on the EU institutions and Member States to step up their efforts to protect women and girls with disabilities, who continue to face multiple forms of discrimination in EU society on the grounds of both their gender and disability, often resulting in their social exclusion.

Despite constituting 16% of the total female population in Europe, this group of 40 million women is one of the most vulnerable and marginalised in European society.

In the opinion adopted in July, the EESC stated that the EU and its Member States lacked a strong legal framework to protect and safeguard the human rights of all women and girls with disabilities.

"Women with disabilities need special support, yet there is no proper focus on them in any of the EU strategies, either in the strategy on women or in the strategy on persons with disabilities. It is as if they have disappeared, as if they are of lesser value than the rest of the population," said Gunta Anča, the rapporteur for the opinion and a member of the European Disability Forum board.

The EESC urged the EU and its Member States to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly Article 6, which concerns women with disabilities.

It stressed the need for the EU countries to join the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence, to which women with disabilities are three to five times more likely to fall victim than their peers without a disability.

The opinion will feed into the European Parliament's forthcoming report on the same topic in the autumn. (ll)