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“Women should be empowered to have full control of their reproductive rights”

Autism-Europe Director, Aurélie Baranger defended the rights of women and girls with disabilities in a public hearing in the European Parliament on the subject of forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities on December 5.

The event, hosted by Swedish MEP Soraya Post, gave representatives from  the European Disability Forum (EDF), and various Disabled People Organisations (DPOs), as well as self-advocates with real life experience of the issue, the chance to speak out against this inhumane practice.

Aurélie Baranger, brought to light the particular challenges faced by women and girls on the autism spectrum. In her intervention to those present, she mentioned the following key points on how forced sterilisation is a particular issue when autism is involved:

“One of the justifications for forced sterilisation is that it is for the good of women with disabilities. For example, to protect them against menstrual trouble. In particular when they experience distressing symptoms, that menstruations trigger so called “challenging behaviours” or to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  It is of course a completely unacceptable solution.

Women and girls should receive adapted support and they should be empowered to have full control of their reproductive rights. They should have their legal capacity respected and be provided with all the support to exercise their reproductive rights.

Empowerment starts with knowledge, and sex education should thus be made fully accessible for all people with disabilities, including those who need alternative and augmentative means of communications, such as autistic people.

It is also essential to raise awareness and educate the families of girls and women with disabilities who are at risk of suffering forced sterilisation regarding the rights and needs of their daughters. It is necessary to train professionals, particularly in the health care sector, about the right-based approach to autism, and society as a whole to ensure that they listen to the voices of girls and women with disabilities and respect their rights”.

The hearing was also attended by MEPs Adam Kosa, Helga Stevens and Julie Ward, as well as Louiza Chalal, Member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. A video message from Catalina Devandas Aguilar, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, was also presented to participants.