The trauma that a woman with a disability goes through when faced with gender violence goes much beyond the incident, and extends to filing a First Information Report (FIR) at the local police station and at every step in the case there on.
But women, said Amba Salelkar, fellow, Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability Law and Policy, must not only go ahead and file an FIR but also demand assistance, assistive devices and provisions available to them to help them register a case and identify the accused, among other aspects.
As part of the ‘16 days of activism against gender violence’ campaign which began on November 25, Prajnya Trust released a preview of a video resource on ‘Disability, gender violence and the law’ put together jointly by Prajnya, Vidya Sagar and Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability Law and Policy.
Swarna Rajagopalan, founder, Prajnya, described the video as a simple introduction to gender violence challenges faced by women with disabilities and the laws in place.
Activists and lawyers who were at the preview urged a shift from the charity model to the empowerment model, and observed that women with disabilities are among the most marginalised and vulnerable in society.
The video touches upon overt and covert forms of gender violence unique to women with disabilities, accessibility issues, misuse of government schemes, legal provisions and acts, the United Nations Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities and issues relating to sexuality among other aspects.
Smitha S., assistant coordinator, disability legislation unit, Vidya Sagar who is part of the video said that women with disabilities must be treated as equals and the community cannot decide on their behalf. “The basic thing is to respect them as equals and facilitate them to decide about their lives,” she said.
For that, they need to be aware of their rights and provisions in the law said Ummul Khair, legal activist who is also part of the video. “We are hoping that women with disabilities also watch the video and start talking about trying to either amend or create laws or facilitate procedures, which will help them redress any grievance,” said Ms. Salelkar.
Ms. Smitha said they were taking a cross-disability approach and were looking at provisions of reasonable accommodation for all persons with all disabilities at all places. Though the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act were amended pursuant to the Justice Verma Committee Report, there are no clear-cut rules even now on how accessibility can be improved, said Ms. Salelkar.
Right now, she said, the government must have a woman representative with a disability on every panel related to women and their safety. “There are various committees and sub-committees being set up and we find that we do not have enough representation from persons with disabilities, let alone women with disabilities. That needs to be rectified immediately, because it is very difficult for people to understand their unique issues,” she said.
The final version of the video, said Ms. Rajagopalan, will have subtitles, and anyone can create subtitles in other languages. While the rough-cut will be available as a free resource immediately on YouTube, the final video will be up within a few months, she said. The resource, she said, could be used to start a discussion. She added that filmmakers Ramesh B. and Jyothi Kumar had pitched in on a voluntary basis.