Rights of Women with Disability under Indian Law: On the Crossroads of Gender and Autonomy

Arya Senapati and Upasana Mohanty
KIIT School of Law, India

Volume III, Issue IV, 2020

Hovering amidst the large sum of 21 million disabled individuals in India, are “12.6 million males and 9.3 million females”. Based on the recent polls, 43-44% of the entire disabled population are women. The question one may fathom when we discuss “Women with Disabilities” (WWD) is that the need of carving out a gender aspect in the predominant discourse of disabled rights. The answer lies in the post-modern perspective of “Intersectionality” which as a concept first emerged in the works of Prof. Crenshaw who studied various political and social identities of a person and how such identities manifest into systems of discrimination that the said person may be exposed to. The emergence of the intersectional theory has led to percolation of different mainstream movements into one melting pot so as to achieve definitive inclusion and confront newer forms of discrimination. One primary example of such intermingled ideologies which directly relates to the focal point of this paper, is “Intersectional Feminism”  which in its post-modern form has broadened its horizons of activisms from core women rights to include peripheral and concomitant issues related to rights of “queer women, transwomen, women of colour, women with disabilities”, so on and so forth. While on the forefront, people with any form of disability are prejudiced against and do not enjoy equal access to opportunities and resources, the female population, due to years of systemic oppression and prevailing patriarchal structure, assumes a greater risk due to multiplied identities leading to flaring of inequalities, violence, ignorance and predisposition . When the gender and physical identity of women with disabilities become apparent in a mutually exclusive manner, it encumbers access to any sort of rights, opportunities and resources. If we delve deeper into the intersectionality by adding a few more social markers through analysis of a government report  drafted by “Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation”, we are familiarized with the deafening reality which is: half of the women who are disabled either do not have formal education or they drop out of educational facilities quite early. Furthering away from education into its end i.e. employment, it is to be noted that the gender disparity becomes unblemished in observation as 40% men with disabilities are employed in occupational settings while merely 21-23% of women with disabilities find employment in such institutions.