“I went to a gynecologist once but she would not talk to me because she said she doesn’t work with ‘abnormal people’.”

Young woman with a disability in Latin America.

Being able to access quality health care and family planning is difficult enough for adolescent girls but for girls living with a disability, it's near impossible. Girls with disabilities  face layer upon layer of discrimination,  leaving them completely unaware of their rights when it comes to their sexual health. They are some of the most marginalised girls in the countries that Plan International works in.  

They face forced sterilisation, violence, child marriage, human trafficking, prejudice and stigma at rates far higher than their peers. Yet these forms of discrimination and abuse are largely unrecognised. The lack of data available on girls and young women means they are basically invisible.

This International Day of Persons with Disabilities we’re launching the report Let Me Decide and Thrive. The report highlights the challenges faced by girls and young women when it comes to their sexual and reproductive rights and calls on decision makers to do more to protect them.

Key findings:

  • Girls with disabilities across the world are kept in the dark about their sexual and reproductive health to the extent that they often don’t know how to protect themselves against abuse, pregnancy and disease.
  • Failure to collect data about girls and young women with disabilities renders them invisible to governments and policy makers.
  • Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled children and are at a higher risk of child marriage and human trafficking.
  • Forcing girls and young women with disabilities to undergo sterilisation, abortion or use contraception might result in lifelong and irrevocable consequences but are all too common crimes against their sexual integrity and sexual and reproductive health rights.
  • The marginalisation of girls and young women with disabilities’ sexual and reproductive health needs often results in them being wrongly perceived as asexual.
  • The absence of appropriate menstruation products and facilities in schools affects girls with disabilities even more, often causing them to stay at home or be subjected to forced medication and medical practices including hysterectomies.

Girls and young women with disabilities have the right to make decisions about their bodies and their lives. We’re calling for governments to recognise by law the sexual and reproductive rights of girls with disabilities and remove legal barriers to them accessing information, goods and services.

We want to ensure that girls and young women are heard and have agency of their bodies and their lives. Read the full report.

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