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Autism-Europe offers a platform for autistic women to combat multiple discrimination

In 2018, International Women’s Day (March 8) comes on the heels of an unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. From Autism-Europe, we continue to actively combat  violence, abuse and forced sterilisation for all women and girls with disabilities, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

These demands are also on the agenda of the United Nations, which has devoted its World Autism Awareness Day observance to “Empowering Women and Girls with Autism”. The UN’s observance will also focus on the importance of involving autistic women and girls  and their representative organisations in policy and decision making to address the multiple challenges they face.

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Autism-Europe represented at EDF’s Women’s Committee

At the European level, the voice of autistic women is raised by Monique Post, member of the Dutch Autism Association (NVA) and Council of Administration member of Autism-Europe. In September 2017, she was elected as member of the Women’s Committee of the European Disability Forum (EDF) for 4 years.

This Committee has 10 members from all over Europe and representing different groups of persons with disabilities. Its role is to mainstream the women’s perspective in all EDF’s policies and documents, to raise awareness of the situation of women and girls with disabilities and to work towards their inclusion in society in accordance with the Madrid Declaration on Women and Girls with Disabilities adopted in November 2008.

Autism-Europe’s work on tackling forced sterilisation

In May 2017, EDF and CERMI Women’s Foundation released a comprehensive report that raises awareness on how to prevent and end the forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities, to which Autism-Europe contributed by addressing the issues faced by autistic women.

It sets out the situation regarding forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities and how it contradicts their reproductive rights and right to self-determination. It highlights the close link between this practice and the deprivation of legal capacity. Finally, it provides an overview of the current human-rights standards and jurisprudence on the topic.

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This joint report was presented at a public hearing in the European Parliament on the 5th of December 2017 on the subject of forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities. At this event, Autism-Europe’s Director, Aurélie Baranger, defended the rights of women and girls with disabilities, and brought to light the particular challenges faced by women and girls on the autism spectrum. In her intervention, she also underlined the importance of providing accessible sex education to all people with disabilities, including those using alternative and augmentative forms of communications.

Autism-Europe’s advocacy around the ratification of Istanbul Convention

On January 31 2017, Autism-Europe was invited to speak at a workshop titled “Domestic violence against people with disability”, organised at the European Parliament in Brussels by Member of the European Parliament Soraya Post. The objectives were to highlight issues linked to violence against women with disabilities and the specific challenges that they face. It also called for the EU to ratify the Istanbul Convention.

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The Council of Europe Convention on the Preventing and Combating of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence is the most comprehensive treaty tackling violence against women and domestic violence in Europe. The Convention details a set of comprehensive and multidisciplinary measures in a proactive fashion to prevent violence against women, protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators; being a key tool to improve legislation and policies at national level.

Facts and figures

According with the United Nations, girls with disabilities are less likely to complete primary school and more likely to be marginalised or denied access to education. Women with disabilities have a lower rate of employment than both men with disabilities and women without disabilities. Globally, women are more likely to experience physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence than men, and women and girls with disabilities experience gender-based violence at disproportionately higher rates and in unique forms owing to discrimination and stigma based on both gender and disability.

As a result of inaccessibility and stereotyping, women and girls with disabilities are persistently confronted with barriers to sexual and reproductive health services and to information on comprehensive sex education, particularly women and girls with intellectual disabilities including autism. On the last World Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November, Autism-Europe joined EDF to call on the European Union to protect the rights of women with disabilities.

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