(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 17, 2012
UNDER the auspices of the Paschim Banga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammelani, an affiliate of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD), a state level convention was held at Kolkata on June 4, 2012, on the issue of social security for women with disabilities. Several disability rights activists, persons with disabilities, their family members, academics and policy makers participated.
Inaugurating the convention, Kanti
Ganguly, convener of the NPRD, said
though different issues related to disability were highlighted
from time to
time, gender remains a non-issue within the host of problems
and needs more
attention. Eminent lawyer Smt Bharati Mukherjee lamented that
women were not covered under disability specific legislations
enacted in the
country. She mentioned that there are four laws pertaining to
Dr Sudha Kaul, chairperson of the New
Disability Law Committee of the government
Professor Malini Bhattacharya, ex-MP and former chairperson of the State Women’s Commission, stressed the need for not just disability laws but for generic laws on women to consider issues of women with disabilities. She mentioned that during the discussion on the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, there were discussions on how disabled women would be able to lodge complaints if they were harassed. Not only are disabled women subject to violence, there are times when women become disabled because of the violence they face, she added. She narrated cases of women who were tortured and deserted by family members, and as a result they became mentally ill and dependent on others.
Mental Health activist Srija Chakroborty focussed her presentation on plight of mentally ill women within mental health institutions. She gave examples of two hospitals in Kolkata and narrated how women are deprived of basic dignity within the walls of hospitals. Sometimes they are pushed into solitary cells without a shred of cloth on them, sometimes they are physically abused and they are treated not as human beings but as “pagals” who do not have any rights. Though mental illness is enumerated as a disability in the Persons with Disabilities Equal Opportunities Act of 1995, yet this particular group does not enjoy any of rights enshrined in the law for them.
This was also apparent from speech of Ishita Sanyal who sought to highlight the plight of mentally ill women within families. She highlighted the fact that even people who are economically well placed deprive these women of basic needs.
Jeeja Ghosh, an activist, pointed out that that sometimes disabled women do not even realise that they are being subjected to abuse and hence they do not complain. Disabled women internalise the abuses and do not know the language of protest.
Ajin Sen, president of Parivaar, rued the
Eminent poet Krishna Basu noted that women
are anyway treated as second
class citizens; so it is obvious that a woman who is disabled
disadvantaged. Professor Ishita Mukhopadhyay, director,
Sailen Choudhury presided over the meeting. Shampa Sengupta summed up the day long deliberations and read out the demands raised from this platform.
A young girl with hearing-speech
impairment who was raped in
The academics, activists and all present at this convention showed solidarity towards these victims, demanding proper rehabilitation of and compensation for these hapless girls who belong to very poor families.
At the conclusion, Kanti Ganguly proposed
that the Sammelani organise
meetings on the same issue in all districts of West Bengal and
that the NPRD
should organise a national level convention on women with
disabilities in the
capital city of