Women with Disabilities are Rights Holders, Not Passive Recipients of Care

    Olga, a 45-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, seldom leaves her home to participate in gatherings with friends or other social activities. Besides going to the same school she’s attended since childhood, the only other outing she makes is to a summer camp. To take control over her life, Olga needs a support system that would enable her to study for a career, develop professionally, fully exercise her political rights, live independently, and be included in the community. These are fundamental rights everyone should have, including women with disabilities.

    Since 2017, policymakers at the state and federal levels in Mexico have been discussing care and support policies that are key for addressing gender inequalities affecting women like Olga, as well as those facing older women. Additionally, women’s rights advocates in Mexico have pushed politicians to start taking issues around care and support seriously.

    Recently, Jalisco was the first Mexican state to pass a law on care. While the adoption of this legislation is an achievement, it doesn’t align with the rights of people with disabilities and older people to live independently and be included in the community. This is especially important for women with disabilities and older women because of the greater risks they face of discrimination in the absence of legal protections.

    Additionally, the legislation problematically portrays people with disabilities as dependent beings in need of care, despite existing international standards on how to create a respectful and rights-based care and support system. Jalisco’s congress did not adequately consult with organizations of people with disabilities to gather their input on the law’s content. Consultations are key to ensuring a comprehensive support system that rights holders can access, manage, and control, that also responds to gendered needs. Organizations of people with disabilities know best how to address different support needs, like Olga’s.

    This International Women’s Day, policymakers should center the rights, needs, and voices of women with disabilities and older women – as well as consulting with and listening to them – in order to build strong public policies that uphold everyone’s rights to live independently and be included in their community. That way, care policies won’t go against good practices but will respond to the demands of those who will be impacted.

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