This week the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has heard about women and girls with disability being abused and actively denied their sexual and reproductive rights.
Double standards still exist across the healthcare sector which expect women with disability to tolerate a level of violence in their own homes at higher rates than other women in Australia.
Jamal Hakim, Managing Director of Marie Stopes Australia said the evidence heard at the Royal Commission was unacceptable and strong action needed to be taken to address the inequities that exist.
“Throughout the hearings and particularly over the last two days we have heard heartbreaking accounts of the violations inflicted on women and girls with disability.
“It is obvious that their sexual and reproductive rights have been ignored across the healthcare sector.
“Historically in Australia, we have heard today that children as young as seven were sterilised because of their disability, such as vision impairments.
“People with disability have the right to choose if and when they experience menstruation, pregnancy, and various healthcare procedures.
“Reproductive coercion, including forced sterilisation and forced contraception causes lifelong psychological harm for people with disability.
“Their sexual and reproductive rights were taken away without their consent.
“Every person, regardless of age, deserves to have full autonomy of their sexual and reproductive health.
“For too long, the rights of people with disability have been ignored.
“The Royal Commission is shining a light on the failures of the current systems in place.
“No one should have contraception or sterilisation forced upon them. The healthcare sector needs to consider if and when their actions could be coercive.
“Clinical settings need sensitive enquiry mechanisms that enable us to prevent and respond to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
“We call for increased investment in clinical education and training to cover disability, bodily autonomy and informed consent.
“Governments have a responsibility to take strong action against this behaviour to ensure it stops happening.
“We support the calls to provide redress for women and girls who were sterilised without their consent.
“Redress for forced sterilisation is an important part of addressing the drivers of inequality that fuel disability discrimination.
Marie Stopes white paper on reproductive coercion in the contexts of family and domestic violence Hidden Forces can be read here.
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For further information contact Anna Jabour, Marie Stopes Australia, 0428 396 391.
Marie Stopes Australia is a national not for profit provider of sexual and reproductive health services including permanent and long-acting reversible contraception and abortion care. For more information on our clinic network visit mariestopes.org.au.