According to MODEL DISABILITY SURVEY in Afghanistan (MDSA) in 2019 by the Asia Foundation, 13.9% of the Afghan population has severe disabilities. The prevalence of disability in Afghanistan is close to the global estimation of 15% of the world population to be living with some form of disability. Persons with disabilities – men, women, boys and girls with disabilities – experience different kinds of challenges in society, including disproportionate violence.
Violence against women and girls with disabilities is not a new challenge. Earlier this year, we were all shocked when Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported sexual harassment against girls and women with disabilities by the very authorities who are mandated to serve and protect the rights of all persons with disabilities . While this research had commenced prior, the report by HRW stimulated our effort, and despite unexpected restrictions caused by the COVID-19 virus, we carried out this research to help with increasing understandings of multifaceted causes of violence against girls and women with disabilities in Afghanistan.
Given the shortage in resources, the study covered limited geographic areas and interviewed 47 girls and women with disabilities in the province of Kabul, Balk, Bamyan and Parwan. The focus of the study is on the physical, verbal, psychological and isolated violence against women with disabilities. However, some other areas such as marriage, employment and counselling have been partially considered in the report. But sexual violence was not included in this study due to some limitations. However, HRW and other credible sources were used on sexual violence against girls and women with disabilities in Afghanistan.
Sexual harassment and attack exist against girls and women with disabilities in the country. It occurs at various levels, especially when girls and women with disabilities seek assistance. For example, Human Rights Watch reported evidence of sexual harassment against girls and women with disabilities by authorities. Also, sexual violence took place against a 12 years old girl with a mental disability by a group of men in Herat (AFGHAN-IRCA, 1397). The concerns exist that girls and women with disabilities are vulnerable to sexual violence, especially girls and women with mental disabilities.
This report indicates that girls and women with disabilities experience negative behaviours at home and community. The negative behaviour includes unsuitable sympathy, mistreatments and reprimand of family members and people in the community. For instance, when people see or meet girls and women with disabilities, they start regretting and questioning their disability issues, which has a psychologically negative impact on girls and women with disabilities’ feelings and spirits. People call them with their disability name. Moreover, girls and women with disabilities have experienced throwing stones at them in their community