International Day of Persons with Disabilities

03 Dec 2018

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem

More than 1 billion people live with a disability, and nearly 200 million are between the ages of 10 and 24. Yet young people with disabilities are often invisible in statistics, excluded from education and health services, and discriminated against in their own communities

Girls and young women bear the brunt of these violations. A global study from UNFPA reveals that girls and young women with disabilities face up to 10 times more gender-based violence than those without disabilities. Those with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. 

Decisions about their bodies are often taken for them, including human rights violations such as forced contraception, forced sterilization, and forced abortion. They are denied access to sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education, limiting their ability to have safe, healthy and enjoyable relationships.

Universal human rights and universal health care mean rights and healthcare for all, without discrimination. Young people with disabilities have the same rights as everyone – and the enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive health and rights is foundational to their ability to unlock their potential and opportunities and determine their own future.

At UNFPA, we believe that young people with disabilities should be empowered to make decisions about their health, education, employment, and life aspirations. Our global programme WE DECIDE promotes the rights of women and young people with disabilities to enjoy equal opportunities, live a life free of gender-based violence, and enjoy their sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, UNFPA pledges to keep innovating, advocating, and pushing to ensure that persons with disabilities everywhere are fully aware of and able to exercise their rights; to access sexual and reproductive health information, education and services; and to live free of violence and discrimination.

We are also committed to ending invisibility through high-quality population data so that everyone counts and is counted and no one is left behind.

It’s time to end stigma and discrimination against all persons with disabilities and ensure their full inclusion. Let’s listen to their voices, promote their rights and choices, and ensure that laws and policies integrate their distinct needs and concerns. Together, we can build a more inclusive world where the beauty and brilliance of difference is celebrated and where every person’s potential is fulfilled. 


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