BY PURITY NTHIANA
Across the globe, women and girls living with disabilities face more violence compared to those without disabilities.
As young girls living with disabilities enter adolescence, they are more exposed to sexual violence because it is less ‘detectable’. These forms of violence increase their sense of powerlessness and dependency.
They normally risk contracting HIV and unintended pregnancies. Many people see them as easy targets just because they cannot stand up or speak up for themselves.
Some live in the same roof as the perpetrators because of high dependency burden, and most of them were neglected and they don’t have relatives to talk to.
Harmful myths also make them easier targets. An example of such a myth and superstition is that having sexual intercourse with a girl with albinism will cure HIV/Aids and other STDS.
Limited access to health services and limited personal autonomy prevents young women with disabilities from experiencing or engaging in healthy sexual lives.
Despite stereotypical perception that only young women experience violence, it is also the case with older women. Experiencing violence has negative consequences on women’s health and can greatly affect their physical and psychological health.
The government should invest in empowering women and girls to know their sexual and reproductive rights and how to protect themselves. Laws against sexual violence should be made clear on the perpetrators brought to justice without delay.
Also invest in evidence-based interventions that can demonstrate a decreased incidence of violence and make a sustainable change in the lives of women and girls with disabilities.
Ms Nthiana is a sexual and reproductive health advocate at NAYA Kenya