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Procedure : 2018/2685(RSP)
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PV 29/11/2018 - 5
CRE 29/11/2018 - 5

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PV 29/11/2018 - 8.19
CRE 29/11/2018 - 8.19
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Thursday, 29 November 2018 - Brussels Provisional edition
The situation of women with disabilities

European Parliament resolution of 29 November 2018 on the situation of women with disabilities (2018/2685(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), and its entry into force on 21 January 2011, in accordance with Council Decision 2010/48/EC of 26 November 2009 on the conclusion, by the European Community, of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)(1), and in particular to Article 6 thereof on women and girls with disabilities,

–  having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979) and its Optional Protocol (1999),

–  having regard to the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers(2),

–  having regard to Articles 10, 19 and 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation(3),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation (COM(2008)0426) and Parliament’s position thereon of 2 April 2009(4),

–  having regard to the study of Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union entitled ‘Discrimination Generated by the Intersection of Gender and Disability’,

–  having regard to the report of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) entitled ‘Poverty, gender and intersecting inequalities in the EU’, with special attention to its Chapter 8 on ‘Gender and disability’,

–  having regard to the EIGE Gender Equality Index 2017,

–  having regard to the question to the Commission on the situation of women with disabilities (O-000117/2018 – B8‑0418/2018),

–  having regard to the motion for a resolution of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality,

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas over 80 million persons with disabilities live in the EU; whereas one in four Europeans has a family member with a disability; whereas there are approximately 46 million women and girls with disabilities in the EU, comprising about 16 % of its total female population and representing 60 % of the overall population of persons with disabilities;

B.  whereas the word ‘disability’ encompasses a large variety of temporary, short-term or long-term personal situations that require tailored policy responses and include mental health issues;

C.  whereas changing demography and an aging population mean more people becoming disabled later in life;

D.  whereas every day fundamental rights are being denied to people with disabilities, by perpetuating the difficulties in access to remunerated employment conferring rights, in both public and private sectors; whereas the vocational training of people with disabilities falls short of what is needed and could be achieved in order for it to allow for the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competences necessary for inclusion in working life;

E.  whereas only 18,8 % of women with disabilities are employed in the EU; whereas 45 % of working-age women (i.e. aged 20-64) with disabilities are inactive, the equivalent figure for men being 35 %;

F.  whereas 75 % of people with severe disabilities do not have the opportunity to participate fully in the European labour market, and women with disabilities are two to five times more likely to be victims of violence than non-disabled women;

G.  whereas 34 % of women with a health problem or a disability have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner in their lifetime;

H.  whereas sterilisation of women with disabilities without their knowledge or consent is a widespread form of violence, in particular affecting members of ethnic minorities such as Roma women;

I.  whereas there is a lack of visibility of disabled people in public life and media;

J.  whereas approximately two-thirds of carers in Europe are women; whereas 80 % of care in the EU is provided by unpaid informal carers and 75 % of them are women; whereas the economic value of unpaid informal care in the Union, as a percentage of the overall cost of formal long-term care provision, is estimated to range from 50 to 90 %;

K.  whereas the social and economic participation of women with disabilities is essential for the success of Europe’s overall economic and social strategy;

L.  whereas women with disabilities often face multiple forms of discrimination on the grounds of, among other factors, their gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics, which contributes to the feminisation of poverty;

M.  whereas persons with disabilities and in particular women with disabilities have lower incomes and are at higher risk of poverty and social exclusion; whereas situations of poverty and exclusion are perpetuated where social protection is manifestly insufficient; whereas the situation of working women with disabilities has deteriorated over time compared to that of men (the figure for women facing in-work poverty was 10 % in 2007 and 12 % in 2014);

N.  whereas technological developments are full of both opportunities and challenges, especially for women with disabilities, as the global workforce increasingly uses digital tools;

O.  whereas difficulties persist in accessing health centres, hospital care, support products, medicines, and essential therapies for monitoring and rehabilitation; whereas severe mobility problems persist, whether due to architectural barriers that impede traffic in public spaces and streets, or limited access to public and collective transport; whereas communication obstacles remain (such as the lack of sign language interpreters in public services and poor television accessibility for deaf people), which limit and prevent access to public services and information; whereas support, protection, communication, care and health services, such as those related to primary health, violence against women, childcare and motherhood, should be fully accessible in all languages, forms and formats for all women, and especially for women and girls with disabilities;

P.  whereas the full participation of persons with disabilities, as referred to in Article 29 CRPD, in political and public life, where they are often under-represented, will remain a pious hope, and particularly so for women, if the issue is not properly addressed;

Q.  whereas, despite the numerous international conventions and provisions of European law, as well as the current European Disability Strategy, persons with disabilities are still not fully enjoying their citizens’ and social rights; whereas equal access to culture, sport and leisure and equal participation in social and political life are not guaranteed; whereas professionals working in these areas are undervalued; whereas all the above mentioned conventions and provisions are systematically disregarded, while fundamental rights continue to be denied to workers and people with disabilities; whereas women and girls with disabilities remain on the margins of decision-making and progress in gender equality;

R.  whereas gender equality was not horizontally mainstreamed in the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020;

S.  whereas Articles 21 and 26 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union explicitly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of disability, and call for the equal participation of persons with disabilities in society; whereas equal treatment can be ensured by enforcing positive measures and policies for women with disabilities and mothers of children with disabilities;

T.  whereas including a gender dimension in the post-2020 European Disability Strategy will contribute to an integrated approach to eliminating discrimination against women and girls with disabilities;

U.  whereas the monthly wage of men with disabilities is higher than that of women with disabilities, while both wages are generally lower than those of other workers, in a discriminatory reality that persists;

V.  whereas the current labour market is unstable and precarious, and the increase of unemployment means a decrease in the opportunities of access to employment for people with disabilities;

W.  whereas there is a lack of human, material and pedagogical means in the state school system for the proper accompaniment and effective inclusion of children and young people with special educational needs; whereas full integration in society is mainly achieved through quality employment and accessible education; whereasemployment is not only considered a source of income, but has also become a mechanism of social integration as it creates a link with society, interpersonal relationships and a sense of participation in social, cultural and economic life;

X.  whereas women with disabilities may experience unique forms of abuse that are difficult to recognise, such as removing or destroying a person’s mobility devices or denying access to disability-related resources in the community and/or to healthcare appointments;

Y.  whereas breast cancer rates for women with disabilities are much higher than those of the general female population, due to a lack of adapted screening and diagnosis equipment;

Z.  whereas the EIGE Gender Equality Index 2017 shows that on average 13 % of women with disabilities experience unmet medical needs and 12 % unmet dental needs, while in the case of women without disabilities 5 % experience unmet medical needs;

General recommendations

1.  Reiterates that all persons with disabilities should be able to fully enjoy their rights on a basis of inclusion and full participation in society; stresses that this is only possible through the enforcement of active and public policies and the removal of all barriers to participation;

2.  Calls on the Member States to implement policies for prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and integration with regard to people with disabilities and support for their families, and to assume responsibility for the effective realisation of their rights, without prejudice to the rights and duties of parents or guardians; calls also for the development of a pedagogy that sensitises society to the duties of respect for and solidarity with people with disabilities, to counter the social discrimination to which they are subject;

3.  Calls on the Member States to fulfil their commitments regarding ratification of the CRPD, and to take all necessary measures to guarantee the rights and freedoms as well as the responsibilities enshrined in it, in particular in areas such as employment, education, health, social protection, housing, mobility, access to justice, culture, sports, leisure and participation in social and political life, as well as the specific responsibilities defined in the CRPD for the rights of women and children with disabilities;

4.  Highlights the fact that women and girls with disabilities suffer from double discrimination due to the intersection of gender and disability, and may often even be exposed to multiple discrimination arising from the intersection of gender and disability with sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics, country of origin, class, migration status, age, religion or ethnicity;

5.  Reiterates its call on the Commission and the Member States to mainstream women and girls with a disability perspective in their gender equality strategy, policies and programmes, a gender perspective in their disability strategies, and both a gender and a disability perspective in all other policies;

6.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to support research and innovation with regard to developing products and services to support persons with disabilities in their everyday activities;

7.  Underlines that the number of elderly people is increasing and that according to the World Health Organization, disability prevalence is higher among women, who are particularly affected by this phenomenon owing to their longer life expectancy; stresses that there will therefore be a proportionate increase in the numbers of women with disabilities;

8.  Insists that gender-disaggregated data must be collected in order to identify the forms of intersectional multiple discrimination that are faced by women and girls with disabilities, in all areas covered by the Istanbul Convention and wherever relevant;

9.  Calls on the EIGE to continue providing analysis and contributions at EU and Member State level as regards the specific situation of women and girls with disabilities, with a special focus on intersectional discrimination;

10.  Reiterates that women with disabilities often face even bigger challenges and dangers in countries involved in conflict and in conflict zones; highlights, therefore, the need to protect women with disabilities in the EU’s external policies;

Rights of women with disabilities

11.  Underlines that women with disabilities must be ensured the full enjoyment of their rights as regards access to quality, accessible and affordable education, healthcare, including trans-specific healthcare as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights, employment, mobility, family life, bodily autonomy, sexuality and marriage, as well as the safeguards guaranteeing those rights;

12.  Recalls that authorities at all levels and relevant stakeholders must respect and uphold the right to independent living and, therefore, provide the necessary instruments and support to enable people with disabilities, especially women, to enjoy freedom of choice and control over their own life and lifestyle;

13.  Emphasises that women and girls with disabilities must be informed of their rights and of the citizens’ services available to them; underlines that this information must be provided in a simple and secure fashion, taking into account the different communication methods, media and formats chosen by and adapted to them; stresses that the right to information must not be confused with the conceptualisation of the need to actively seek access to rights (shifting the responsibility for right fruition to those in need), since Member States must assume responsibility for reaching all persons with disabilities and ensuring and guaranteeing them the rights laid down by law or international convention;

14.  Calls for the integration of people with disabilities into the regular structures of society at all levels, including health, education and employment, taking into account that the persistent and generalised use of special structures or services leads to segregation and reduces equal opportunities;

15.  Recognises the need for persons with disabilities to be able to access safe spaces, e.g. in the form of clubs and associations;

16.  Calls on the EU to remove barriers to the right to vote for persons with disabilities, especially for the 2019 European elections;

17.  Urges the Member States to enforce the principle of equal pay for equal work, to counter wage discrimination and to guarantee equality between women and men, including with regard to persons with disabilities;


18.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to enforce policies that promote accessibility as an essential step towards inclusion and an indispensable condition for the integration and participation of persons with disabilities; stresses also the importance of respect for the principles of equal treatment and equal opportunities in relation to accessibility and mobility;

19.  Insists on the need for Member States to take measures in particular in the fields of health, education, transport, urban planning and housing;

20.  Is deeply concerned that women and girls with disabilities are far too often denied access to facilities in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights; considers it worrisome that girls and women with disabilities are denied informed consent regarding the use of contraceptives and that they even face the risk of forced sterilisation; calls on the Member States to implement legislative measures that safeguard physical integrity, freedom of choice and self-determination with regard to the sexual and reproductive life of girls and women with disabilities;

21.  Is concerned that few countries have provisions securing the right of persons with disabilities to access legal gender recognition; notes that legal gender recognition, even where allowed, might be inaccessible for women and girls under legal guardianship; notes that mandatory psychiatric assessment in order to access legal gender recognition hinders access for women and girls with mental health issues; calls on Member States to adopt legal gender recognition legislation based on self-determination and taking into account accessibility needs for people with disabilities;

22.  Identifies the need, regarding transport, for the Member States to develop public transport policies that facilitate mobility for disabled people, together with the removal of architectural barriers; calls on the Council and the Commission to allocate the necessary EU funds to support the development of such policies;

Labour and workplace relations with a view to quality employment and a fair work-life balance

23.  Calls on the Member States to develop policies that promote the integration of persons with disabilities in the labour market; considers that such policies should encourage access to employment as a condition of social inclusion, promoting equal opportunities;

24.  Calls on the Member States to guarantee specific forms of labour regulation that address and integrate the specific needs of people with disabilities, especially as regards the regulation of working hours; stresses the need to define specific labour legislation that considers the needs of women with disabilities with regard to pregnancy and maternity, safeguarding permanence in the labour market and ensuring labour protection;

25.  Calls on the Member States to assess the need for arrangements to ensure that the application of maternity, paternity and parental leave and flexible working time is adapted to the diverse needs related to multiple births, premature births, adoptive parents, co-parents, parents with disabilities, parents with mental health problems, and parents of children with a disability, a chronic disease or a mental health problem;

26.  Calls for the promotion of the right to health and rehabilitation and for policies that seek to prevent and remedy accidents at work and occupational diseases for persons with disabilities;

27.  Calls on the Commission to provide Member States with expertise on ways forward to address intersectional discrimination;

28.  Calls on the Commission to support and encourage Member States in tackling discrimination generated by the intersection of gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, sex characteristics and disability, by means of diversity training and work with employers on workplace measures, e.g. promoting anonymous recruitment procedures;


29.  Calls on the Member States, in providing pre-school childcare, to place emphasis not only on accessibility, but also on the quality and affordability of that care, in particular for children with disabilities while taking into account the needs of parents with disabilities; also calls on the Member States to improve public investment in early childhood education and care for those groups of people;

30.  Stresses the importance of integrating women with disabilities into mainstream educational and professional systems;

31.  Highlights that a higher standard and quality of education and training will lead to the greater empowerment of women with disabilities, as education is one of the tools that most influence the progress of society, providing the knowledge and values ​​necessary to achieve higher levels of wellbeing and economic and personal growth; underlines the special importance of quality education and training for persons with disabilities;

32.  Calls on the Member States to ensure effective equal opportunities in access to education by guaranteeing the effective integration of children and young people with disabilities into their education systems at all levels; calls for support for special educational needs and educational material, backed up by inclusive schools in order to ensure equal access, but also success, in the education system;

33.  Calls on the Member States to invest in high-quality education for children and adults with disabilities as part of mainstream education, thus facilitating access, especially among the most disadvantaged sections of the population;

34.  Calls for education policies that seek the removal of the many obstacles that persist for people with disabilities; urges the Member States to achieve within their mainstream educational establishments the physical and/or pedagogical conditions that allow persons with disabilities to attend them; stresses, therefore, the need to increase the numbers of teachers accompanying children with disabilities;

35.  Calls on the Member States to develop strategies to combat bullying and harassment, including in educational contexts and online, against children and young people on the grounds of disability, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, migration status, class, age, religion or ethnicity;

36.  Recalls the importance of taking into account the needs of women and girls with disabilities in the design and implementation of EU programmes and initiatives, in particular in the field of education, mobility and youth actions, as well as undertaking all relevant actions to ensure further their participation in such opportunities;


37.  Considers that women and girls with disabilities must have full access to medical and dental care that meets their particular needs, in areas such as gynaecological consultation, medical examinations, sexual and reproductive health, family planning and adapted support during pregnancy, and trans-specific healthcare; urges the Member States to ensure public investment in this field and that their national public healthcare provision includes proper access to these services;

38.  Stresses that women and girls with disabilities must receive all appropriate information to enable them to freely take decisions regarding their health; emphasises the importance of Member States taking all necessary measures to combat forced sterilisation;

39.  Calls on the Commission to introduce targets for care services for persons with disabilities, on similar lines to the Barcelona targets, with monitoring tools for measuring the quality, accessibility and affordability of these services;

40.  Calls on the EU and the Member States to take all measures to ensure that women and girls with disabilities have equal access both to disability-specific healthcare and to mainstream services;

41.  Calls on the Commission to provide Member States with expertise on ways forward to address intersectional discrimination;

Gender-based violence

42.  Welcomes the decision of the Council for the EU to sign the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention), as an important step in combating violence against women and girls with disabilities; calls on the EU to swiftly ratify the Istanbul Convention and urges those Member States which have not yet ratified it to do so; encourages the Council to proceed to the conclusion of the EU’s accession as soon as possible;

43.  Stresses with concern that women and girls with disabilities are more likely to become victims of gender-based violence, especially domestic violence and sexual exploitation; points out that this also concerns forced sterilisation and coerced abortion; calls on the Member States to take appropriate measures and provide high-quality, accessible and tailor-made services in order to end violence against women and children and support the victims of violence, providing staff trained to give specialised advice as well as appropriate legal protection and support;

44.  Encourages the Member States to provide all health and education professionals with appropriate training for the prevention of discrimination and violence against women and girls with disabilities;

45.  Reiterates its call on the Commission to submit a comprehensive European strategy to fight violence against women with a proposal for a legislative act for preventing and combating gender-based violence, paying particular attention to women and girls with disabilities; also calls for the establishment of an EU observatory on gender-based violence;

46.  Calls for specific policy measures to address violence and abuse affecting persons with disabilities and learning difficulties, particularly women and girls, including online intimidation, bullying and harassment, as well as violence in situations of formal and informal care;

Digital and media inclusion

47.  Emphasises that more must be done to overcome stereotypes and prejudice about disability, and that women and girls with disabilities need to have greater visibility in the media in order to change prevalent exclusionary social norms; calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote gender equality in media organisations, representative bodies and training institutions, especially in their boards, and to invest in public awareness initiatives, as well as to closely monitor and follow up the progress made;

48.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop programmes and services for women with disabilities, focusing on their digital inclusion and emphasising the huge potential of digitalisation for women with a disability;

49.  Stresses the need to increase accessibility to media services, with fully accessible internet services that meet the highest standards of excellence adapted to persons with disabilities;

50.  Calls on the Member States to encourage broadcasters to fully involve women with disabilities as participants and presenters in broadcast media of all kinds;

Legislation and implementation

51.  Regrets that the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 currently in force has failed to boost the adoption of effective legislative acts, measures and policies to tackle the segregation and rejection of women with disabilities in the labour market, political life, and schools and learning environments;

52.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to introduce policies to enable and encourage the participation of women and girls with disabilities in public, social, cultural, economic and political life, in particular by reducing barriers to mobility and encouraging women with disabilities to form and join organisations and networks, as well as through training and mentorship programmes;

53.  Calls on the EU and the Member States to develop positive actions targeting women with disabilities in order to promote training, job placements, access to employment, job retention, equal career paths, adaptation in the workplace and work-life balance;

54.  Calls on the Commission to develop positive actions to advance the rights of women and girls with disabilities, to establish a mechanism to monitor progress, and to fund data collection and research on women and girls with disabilities, in accordance with the CRPD principles;

55.  Calls on the Commission to present a proposal for the European Disability Strategy 2020-2030 that fully integrates the CRPD provisions in future EU legislation, policies and programmes and is consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019, so as to ensure that women and girls with disabilities can fully enjoy their rights like any other person;

56.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to enshrine CRPD standards in their legal and policy frameworks in order to ensure that the human rights-based approach to disability is fully reflected in law and policymaking;

57.  Underlines that women and girls with disabilities, through their representative organisations, should be closely consulted on, and actively involved in developing and implementing, legislation and policies to ensure non-discrimination and equal opportunities, as well as monitoring their effectiveness; calls for a genuine structured dialogue between the EU and organisations representing persons with disabilities for the drafting of the European Disability Strategy 2020-2030;

58.  Stresses that organisations of persons with disabilities must be involved in the preparation, execution and ex-post evaluation of projects undertaken in the framework of EU cohesion policy;


59.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to optimise the EU Structural Funds, including the European Social Fund, in order to promote accessibility and non-discrimination for women with disabilities, and to increase the visibility of funding opportunities, e.g. for business start-ups and supporting entrepreneurship in general;

o   o

60.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission and the Council.

(1) OJ L 23, 27.1.2010, p. 35.
(2) OJ C 364, 18.12.2000, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 303, 2.12.2000, p. 16.
(4) OJ C 137 E, 27.5.2010, p. 68.

Last updated: 30 November 2018Legal notice