Research Nugget

GBV and Women with Physical Disabilities in SA

Gender-based violence (GBV) against women with physical disabilities is a lived reality in South Africa and it requires attention and needs to be prioritised through services for vulnerable women. Women living with physical disabilities can suffer the double discrimination of both their gender and disabilities, making them more vulnerable than women without disabilities or even men with disabilities. Furthermore, society’s inability to transform and accommodate people with impairments can contribute to the continuous risk of abuse among disabled women.

This is according to research by NRF-rated researcher, Dr Priscilla Gutura, and PhD candidate, Yeukai Leoba Muruzi, from the University of Pretoria, which looked at forms of gender-based violence experienced by women with physical disabilities in Pretoria. The study also explored the ways of coping adopted by these women after experiencing violence.

The study found that forms of abuse included disability-related abuse, sexual, emotional, financial, and structural abuse as well as physical abuse.

A few of the participants experienced disability-related violence in the contexts of family and in public. Disability-related violence involves perpetrators taking advantage of the type of disability that the victim has and is associated with neglect in personal care such as bathing, getting out of bed and helping with feeding, as well as denying access to mobility devices, withholding medications, and denying attendance of doctor’s appointments.

Structural abuse experienced by these women spans educational facilities, health care and even workplaces and include being disregarded by employers in the job market because of the stereotypes that they are unable to execute work tasks, as well as unequal access to educational opportunities.

The women found ways of coping by seeking professional help, support from informal networks and engaging in empowerment initiatives to lessen the effects of violence. According to the study, these coping mechanisms are important strategies that need to be strengthened in response to gender-based violence against disabled women.

Access the full paper published in the journal Gender & Behaviour here.