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Women with disabilities are active in advocating for their own sexual and reproductive rights

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Orga­ni­za­tion … IZ KRUGAVOJVODINA, in coop­er­a­tion with the Unit­ed Nations Pop­u­la­tion Fund UNFPA is imple­ment­ing the project Capac­i­ty Build­ing for Women with Dis­abil­i­ties to Advo­cate for Their Sex­u­al and Repro­duc­tive Rights. The project is being imple­ment­ed in five munic­i­pal­i­ties in Ser­bia: Kragu­je­vac, Ras­ka, Temerin, Uzice, Vran­je, and lasts from April to the end of Novem­ber 2020.

Although sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al human rights instru­ments oblige the state to take steps to pro­mote the sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive rights of women with dis­abil­i­ties (Con­ven­tion on the Elim­i­na­tion of All Forms of Dis­crim­i­na­tion against Women, Con­ven­tion on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties, Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Agen­da 2030), women with dis­abil­i­ties are con­tin­u­ous­ly denied infor­ma­tion about sex­u­al­i­ty, sex­u­al health and repro­duc­tive rights and health care ser­vices remain inac­ces­si­ble.

Under reg­u­lar cir­cum­stances, women with dis­abil­i­ties face stereo­types and micro-aggres­sions that under­mine their self-con­fi­dence and result in the inter­nal­iza­tion of an inad­e­quate self-image, in which dis­abil­i­ty is equat­ed with non-sex­u­al­i­ty. The lack of under­stand­ing of dis­abil­i­ty as a part of human expe­ri­ence is built into the health care sys­tem, which is also char­ac­ter­ized by inac­ces­si­bil­i­ty at all lev­els, from archi­tec­tur­al inac­ces­si­bil­i­ty, through men­tal bar­ri­ers of health pro­fes­sion­als, to inac­ces­si­ble com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Dur­ing the emer­gency sit­u­a­tion due to the Coro­na virus pan­dem­ic, it was shown that the mea­sures that con­tribute to the sup­pres­sion of the cur­rent cri­sis leave neg­a­tive con­se­quences in oth­er fields. The new cri­sis is being exploit­ed in order to reduce human rights, which espe­cial­ly affects mul­ti­ple mar­gin­al­ized groups, includ­ing women with dis­abil­i­ties. The pan­dem­ic, as a threat to the entire health care sys­tem, puts the pro­tec­tion of sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive health under addi­tion­al pres­sure, because access to exist­ing sup­port and health care ser­vices is lim­it­ed, and thus the risks of deny­ing choic­es and decid­ing on child­birth are increased. The cri­sis peri­od inten­si­fies ingrained dis­crim­i­na­tion against women with dis­abil­i­ties, and their estab­lished chal­lenges are mul­ti­ply­ing.

What con­se­quences can the cri­sis peri­od have on the already endan­gered and dif­fi­cult to achieve sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive rights of women with dis­abil­i­ties? Every­one has the right to reli­able infor­ma­tion and ade­quate health care, both in times of cri­sis and after it, because sex­u­al­i­ty is an essen­tial part of iden­ti­ty and one of the basic needs of life. The Capac­i­ty Build­ing Project for Women with Dis­abil­i­ties to Advo­cate for Their Sex­u­al and Repro­duc­tive Rights is being imple­ment­ed with the aim of increas­ing nation­al capac­i­ty to pro­vide inte­grat­ed sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive health ser­vices to women with dis­abil­i­ties, enabling all peo­ple to make informed deci­sions about their sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive health. pro­tec­tion of human rights. In coop­er­a­tion with local asso­ci­a­tions of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties in Kragu­je­vac, Ras­ka, Temerin, Uzice and Vran­je, work­ing groups of 15 women with dif­fer­ent types of dis­abil­i­ties were formed with whom the project team will work. With­in the groups, infor­ma­tion will be pro­vid­ed on dis­abil­i­ty, sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive rights and the health of women with dis­abil­i­ties, map­ping exist­ing bar­ri­ers, as well as advo­ca­cy and lob­by­ing strate­gies and tech­niques.

One of the spe­cif­ic goals of the project is the empow­er­ment of women with dis­abil­i­ties in the direc­tion of self-advo­ca­cy and active delay in exer­cis­ing sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive rights with­in their com­mu­ni­ty. Improv­ing sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive health is key to achiev­ing sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, health and pros­per­i­ty.

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