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  • on 21.10.2015
  • at 10:33 AM
  • by Kimberley Evans

Focus on Disability: Defend girls’ sexual health rights 0

Last Sunday marked the UN Day of the Girl Child, which this year focused on the ‘‘power of the adolescent girl’, with a call for governments and others to prioritise adolescent health and nutrition, including sexual reproductive health (SRH), and campaign for zero tolerance for violence.

To focus on sexual health recognises the emotional and psychological transition that takes place during adolescence — one that can greatly impact life choices and wellbeing, for girls in particular. According to a 2014 WHO paper, for example, adolescent girls globally face numerous additional sexual health risks, such as problems relating to early pregnancy, unsafe abortion, female genital mutilation and increased HIV transmission risk.

Adolescent girls with disabilities are even more vulnerable to violation of their rights. Studies suggest they are systematically excluded from sexual health education, peer learning and services.  This heightens the risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexual infections. Adolescent girls with disabilities are also more likely to experience coerced or forced sterilisation, contraception or abortion and are up to three times more likely to experience sexual violence than their peers without disabilities.

Article 25 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilitiesspecifically mentions the right to SRH for people with disabilities. Yet clear gaps in service provision  for girls with disabilities remain, for several reasons. Social stigma (including misconceptions of asexuality), inaccessible healthcare buildings and information, and exclusion from education combine to restrict access to SRH information among adolescent girls with disabilities.

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by Islay Mactaggart

Photo Credits: G.M.B. Akash / Panos

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