Women with visual disabilities equally prone to sexual violence in public places


By Sanjiya Shrestha

Even before and now being a peer-educator of the Family Planning Association of Nepal, I hear of a lot of instances from women with a visual disability regarding the abuse they face by perpetrators in the name of helping them to get the bus while crossing the road or while being in various public places. It is true that sexual violence against visually impaired women is a human rights issue, and till now it has remained a subject of silence and taboo in society. This is why I had thought of researching with an aim to examine the prevalence of sexual violence among visually impaired women with respect to the public sphere in the Kathmandu valley.

The study ‘Prevalence of sexual violence among visually impaired women in the public sphere in Kathmandu valley’ is descriptive in nature. It was carried out in the valley using a structured questionnaire for the participants to respond.

Women having visual disabilities are not safe even in a place where there are a lot of people. One of the major causes of sexual violence against women with visual disabilities lies in their inability to defend themselves and their dependency on perpetrators due to a state of helplessness. Many predators take advantage of this situation and a lot of women with visual disabilities become victims of sexual violence in public places. 

The study I conducted found out that 52% of women with visual disabilities experienced some kind of violence or abuse even during the day time in public places. Among various dimensions of the public sphere, public transport is the most hazardous in terms of safety concerning women with visual disabilities. Even places which are considered safer such as schools/colleges, roads, hostels, workplaces, shops/markets, and hotels are prone to violence.

68% of women who were surveyed reported that the perpetrators had no disability and more than 60% of them said that they experienced some kind of abuse from the person they knew. Some acknowledged that their state of loneliness in any place may lead them to become a victim.

Perpetrators in the public sphere attempt to touch in an uncomfortable manner or fondle their private body parts, according to 66% of respondents. Some low-vision females also observed that perpetrators tend to show unwise physical offensive gestures unknowing the fact that women having low vision have limited vision and can perceive their surroundings. They also witnessed people using double-meaning words, phrases, and sentences directed to them.

Some women with visual impairment even after witnessing sexual violence are unaware of it. The research showed that only 20% of respondents were educated about the different forms of probable violence by their teachers. Only 6% of respondents were taught by their parents. The majority of them learn about it from mass media and social media where the sources of data are less accessible. This is because sex is still taboo in Nepal and is not openly talked about. On top of that, it is assumed by the predators that visually impaired females are not approached or have not encountered any sexual activity therefore, it is ok to violate them. 

The research further showed that reporting of sexual violence against visually impaired women is extremely low. Only 2% of the females with a visual disability had reported their cases of violence to the police. Most of the cases are not registered because negotiations are done outside of court. 44% of them are unaware of the emergency helpline.

Due to fear of sexual violence and its consequences, it is found that women having disabilities get forced sterilized as they have many risks of violence or pregnancy. Those who experience rape are forced to have abortions.

 (Shrestha is the secretary of women's wing, Action on Disability Rights And Development–Nepal, ADRAD-Nepal)


How did you feel after reading this news?

More from Author

New ministers taking oath at 3 pm today

Possibility of light rainfall likely today

Cabinet expansion tomorrow

'We are working to bring Communications Act'