Papers, Articles, Reports & Submissions 2011 – 2015
The United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) will meet in Geneva in November 2014 for its 53rd session. During the session, the CAT Committee will review Australia’s 4th and 5th periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In 2013, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) provided the CAT Committee with documentation to help inform its Review of Australia. In September 2014, WWDA provided the CAT Committee with a Submission providing an update on escalating and urgent human rights violations, which WWDA has asked the Committee to consider in the context of Australia’s review. WWDA’s brief Submission addresses: violence against people with disabilities in institutional and residential settings (particularly sexual violence perpetrated against disabled women and girls); Forced/Involuntary sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities; and, Forced/Involuntary Electroshock (ECT) of women and girls with disabilities. Copyright WWDA 2014.
Note: WWDA’s Submission was provided to the CAT Committee with two attachments:
Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law – Anti-Torture Initiative: ‘Torture in Healthcare Settings: Reflections on the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2013 Thematic Report’ (2014) [PDF Only – Large File]
Torture in Healthcare Settings: Reflections on the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2013 Thematic Report brings together contributions by more than thirty international experts in response to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez’s provocative thematic report on torture and other abusive practices in healthcare settings. Each piece in this unique volume provides novel insights into essential topics and pressing issues at the forefront of the intersecting medical, legal, and policy fields. The questions raised by the Special Rapporteur’s report and the array of innovative perspectives offered in response by each contributing author illustrate a profound commitment to tackling the challenges that continue to arise in promoting and protecting the human rights of persons in diverse healthcare settings globally.
This national Inquiry was announced by the Australian Government in July 2013. The Inquiry, being undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) will examine laws and legal frameworks within the Commonwealth jurisdiction that deny or diminish the equal recognition of people with disability as persons before the law and their ability to exercise legal capacity, and consider what, if any, changes could be made to Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks to address these matters. The ALRC’s final report is due in August 2014. This document is WWDA’s formal Submission to the National Inquiry into Equal Recognition Before the Law and Legal Capacity for People With Disability. WWDA’s Submission examines six key priority areas for women with disabilities that are considered crucial in the context of the National Inquiry. These six areas are: 1) Gendering the National Inquiry into Equal Recognition Before the Law and Legal Capacity for People With Disability; 2) Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Freedoms; 3) The Right to Freedom from Violence, Abuse, Exploitation and Neglect; 4) The Right to Found and Maintain a Family; 5) The Right to Work; and, 6) The Right to Participate in Political and Public life. Copyright WWDA January 2014.
Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and Women Enabled: ‘The Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities’ – By Carolyn Frohmader and Stephanie Ortoleva (July 2013) [PDF] [Word]
This Paper was written by WWDA’s Executive Director (Carolyn Frohmader) and the President of Women Enabled (Stephanie Ortoleva) for the ICPD Beyond 2014 International Conference on Human Rights held at the Hague, Netherlands from 7 – 10 July 2013. The Conference was part of the United Nations (UN) mandated review of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action. The Conference was hosted by the Government of The Netherlands, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). It focused on the nexus between human rights, equality, accountability and population and development, with a focus on gender, discrimination, empowerment and sexual and reproduction health and rights. Carolyn Frohmader participated on the International Reference Committee for the Conference, providing technical advice, assisting with the development of the Conference Program, and advocating strongly for women with disabilities to be included on the invitation only participant list, and to be included in all Conference deliberations and outcome documents. This Paper ‘The Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities’, was commissioned by the Conference organisers to inform this work. Copyright July 2013.
Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Gender, Disability and Violence: Denial of Sexual & Reproductive Rights’ – By ‘Therese Sands (May 2013) [Powerpoint]
On Wednesday 29th May, WWDA member Therese Sands, gave a presentation on behalf of WWDA, at a panel session on Gender-Based Violence and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, at the 2013 Women Deliver Conference, the largest global event of the decade to focus on the health and empowerment of girls and women. The Conference was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 28-30 May 2013. WWDA’s presentation was delivered as part of a panel that examined the ways in which gender-based violence prevents individuals from exercising their sexual and reproductive rights and ways to enable individuals to exercise these rights free from coercion, discrimination and violence. Copyright WWDA May 2013.
Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia: Violating the Human Right to Health’ – By Carolyn Frohmader (May 2013) [PDF] [Word] [Powerpoint]
This paper was written by WWDA Executive Director, Carolyn Frohmader and presented by WWDA President, Karin Swift on behalf of Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) at the 7th Australian Women’s Health Network Conference, Sydney, 8 May, 2013. The paper and the accompanying Powerpoint presentation is based on WWDA’s Submission to the Senate Inquiry into the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia. WWDA’s Submission to the Senate Inquiry is entitled ‘Dehumanised: The Forced Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia’ (ISBN: 978-0-9876035-0-0) is available for download in PDF and Word versions, from the WWDA website at: http://www.wwda.org.au/senateinquiry2012.htm. Copyright WWDA May 2013.
Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Dehumanised: The Forced Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia’ – WWDA Submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Involuntary or Coerced Sterilisation of People with Disabilities in Australia (March 2013)
The Senate Inquiry into Involuntary or Coerced Sterilisation of People with Disabilities in Australia commenced in late 2012 and Submissions to the Inquiry closed in early March 2013. The Senate will report on the Inquiry by June 2013. WWDA’s Submission to the Inquiry establishes beyond doubt, that forced and coerced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities is an internationally recognised form of torture – an inhuman practice which violates multiple human rights, and clearly breaches every international human rights treaty to which Australia is a party. WWDA’s Submission addresses the issue of forced and coerced sterilisation in detail. It examines the background to, and the status of the issue in Australia today, and examines the rationale used to justify the forced sterilisation of disabled women and girls, including themes such as eugenics/genetics; for the good of the State, community or family; incapacity for parenthood; incapacity to develop and evolve; prevention of sexual abuse; and discourses around “best interest”. WWDA’s Submission analyses Australian Court and Tribunal applications and authorisations for sterilisation of disabled women and girls, and demonstrates that the Australian Government’s current justification of the “best interest approach” in the sterilisation of disabled women and girls, has in effect, been used to perpetuate discriminatory attitudes against women and girls with disabilities, and has only served to facilitate the practice of forced sterilisation. The impact of forced sterilisation on women and girls with disabilities is also highlighted in WWDA’s Submission, and reaffirms, through the voices of those affected, that forced and coerced sterilisation has long-lasting physical, psychological and social effects. WWDA’s Submission looks in detail at forced and coerced sterilisation as a violation of human rights and provides an analysis of how the practice contravenes every international human rights treaty to which Australia is a party. Several recent and current legal cases are used to highlight that the issue of forced and coerced sterilisation of women and girls is increasingly being recognised in Courts around the world, as a violation of women’s fundamental human rights. Importantly, WWDA’s Submission also examines redress and transitional justice for women and girls with disabilities who have been sterilised in the absence of their fully informed and free consent. WWDA’s Submission includes 18 Key Recommendations, covering areas such as legislative reforms; transitional justice and redress, (including financial reparation, rehabilitation and recovery); research; informed consent; parenting; violence prevention; supportive decision-making; mechanisms to enable participation of women and girls with disabilities in decision-making; and more. ISBN: 978-0-9876035-0-0. Copyright WWDA March 2013.
WWDA has been working for more than a decade on the issue of involuntary [forced] sterilisation of girls and women with disabilities. Part of our advocacy work over many years has been calling on the Australian Government to conduct a national inquiry into the issue. On 20 September 2012 the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate Community Affairs Committee for inquiry and report by 24 April 2013: The involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia. Information and updates about the Inquiry is provided here.
Australian Government Response to the United Nations in Response to Allegations of Involuntary Sterilisation of Girls and Women with Disabilities in Australia (December 2012) [Word]
On 22 June 2011, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) submitted a formal complaint to the United Nations (UN) regarding the ongoing practice of involuntary sterilisation of girls and women with disabilities in Australia. On 18 July 2011, the United Nations wrote to the Australian Government requesting a formal response in relation to WWDA’s formal complaint. The letter from the UN requested the Government provide detailed information on a number of matters. The Australian Government provided its final response in December 2011. A copy is provided here.
Women With Disabilities Australia: Letter to the Australian Attorney-General Regarding the United Nations Request for a Formal Response to Allegations of Involuntary Sterilisation of Girls and Women with Disabilities (September 2012) [PDF] [Word]
On 22 June 2011, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) submitted a formal complaint to the United Nations (UN) regarding the ongoing practice of involuntary sterilisation of girls and women with disabilities in Australia. On 18 July 2011, the United Nations wrote to the Australian Government requesting a formal response in relation to WWDA’s formal complaint. The letter from the UN requested the Government provide detailed information on a number of matters. On 12 August 2011, the Australian Government responded to the UN, saying it would provide a full response to the request by 17 October 2011. However, on 30th September 2011, the Australian Government provided a further letter to the UN, saying it would be delaying its response until 16 December 2011. WWDA has been unable to locate any record of the Australian Government providing a final response. In this context, on 5th September 2012, WWDA wrote to the Australian Attorney-General seeking clarification on a number of issues in relation to this matter. This is a copy of WWDA’s letter to the Attorney-General (Hon Nicola Roxon) and includes a copy of the United Nations July 2011 letter to the Australian Government, plus a copy of the Australian Government’s responses to the UN (12 August 2011, and 30th September 2011). Copyright WWDA September 2012.
This Submission, from WWDA to the Australian Attorney General (the Hon Nicola Roxon), respectfully requests that the Attorney-General take immediate action to ensure the Australian Government complies with the recommendations of: the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) [in 2010], the Committee on the Rights of the Child [in 2005 and 2012], and the Human Rights Council (UPR) [in 2011], and enact national legislation prohibiting, except where there is a serious threat to life or health, the use of sterilisation of girls, regardless of whether they have a disability, and of adult women with disabilities in the absence of their fully informed and free consent. WWDA’s Submission calls on the Government to invoke its external affairs power (as provided in Section 51 of the Australian Constitution), to ensure that this national legislation is enacted as a matter of urgency. In addition to the development and enactment of national legislation prohibiting the practice, WWDA’s Submission further requests that the Australian government implement a range of specific strategies to enable women with disabilities to realise their rights to freedom from violence, to reproductive freedom and to found a family, to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, to privacy, and to health. These strategies are detailed at the end of this Submission. Copyright WWDA July 2012.
Women With Disabilities Australia: ‘Moving Forward and Gaining Ground: The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia’ – By Carolyn Frohmader (June 2012) [PDF] [Word] [Large Print Text Only] [Powerpoint]
In early 2012, WWDA was invited to present the Keynote Address on ‘Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities’ at the International Women with Disabilities Conference, held in Madrid from June 27th to June 29th 2012. The Conference was hosted by the Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities. WWDA was invited to showcase, on the international stage, our organisations internationally lauded work in the area of the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities. Specifically, the Conference organisers requested that WWDA “present the excellent and significant work you are doing in the fight against forced sterilisation and coerced abortion of women and girls with disabilities.” This Paper ‘Moving Forward and Gaining Ground: The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia’ by WWDA’s Executive Director Carolyn Frohmader, was presented at the Conference on behalf of WWDA by Christina Ryan. The paper was also presented by Karin Swift on behalf of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) at the National Symposium on Women With Disabilities, ‘Critical Reflections on the Status of Women with Disabilities in a Globalised World’, UNSW, Sydney, 10 August 2012. Copyright WWDA July 2012.
This article, published in the June 2012 issue of marie claire magazine, looks at the issue of forced and coerced sterilisation of girls and women with disabilities in Australia. It examines the issues from a range of perspectives – that of Bella, a 34 year old disabled woman who was forcibly sterilised as a child; Claire, a mother seeking sterilisation for her 26 year old disabled daughter; and Amanda, a 29 year old woman with a mild intellectual disability who is successfully raising her twin daughters. The article also includes interviews with a number of people with an interest in the issue, including WWDA CEO Carolyn Frohmader, Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes; Senator Sue Boyce; disability activist Stella Young; Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn; Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Steve Hambleton; Guardianship Board President, Anita Smith; and Dr Margaret Spencer, from the Intellectual Disability Rights Service. Copyright marie claire June 2012.
Women With Disabilities Australia: Submission to the Western Australian Government [Draft] Mental Health Bill 2011 (March 2012)
The Western Australian Government is proposing to introduce into Parliament a new Mental Health Bill 2011. This Draft Mental Health Bill has been prepared for public comment. It would appear from the Draft Bill, that the Western Australian Government is proposing to legislate that a sterilisation procedure could be performed on a child who has a mental illness provided that the child has sufficient maturity and understanding to make reasonable decisions about matters relating to himself or herself and/or the person has given informed consent to the sterilisation procedure being performed.WWDA is of the view that this section of the Draft Bill, is in direct breach of a number of human rights treaties to which Australia is a party, and we have written to the Western Australian Minister for Mental Health requesting her urgent intervention to repeal Part 12: Division 3 [Sterilisation Procedure] from the [Draft] Mental Health Bill 2011. A copy of WWDA’s Submission to the Minister is provided here, along with a copy of the recently published Guidelines on Female Contraceptive Sterilisation and Informed Consent, issued by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO).Copyright WWDA March 2012.
In many parts of the world, women rely on access to a range of methods to control their fertility, including voluntary sterilisation. However, too often, sterilisation is not a choice. Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to forced sterilisations performed under the auspices of legitimate medical care. The practice of forced sterilisation is part of a broader pattern of denial of the human rights of women and girls with disabilities. This denial also includes systematic exclusion from comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care, limited voluntary contraceptive choices, a focus on menstrual suppression, poorly managed pregnancy and birth, involuntary abortion, and the denial of rights to parenting. These practices are framed within traditional social attitudes that characterize disability as a personal tragedy or a matter for medical management and rehabilitation. The difficulty some women with disabilities may have in understanding or communicating what was done to them increases their vulnerability to forced sterilisation. A further aggravating factor is the widespread practice of legal guardians or others making life-altering decisions for persons with disabilities, including consenting to sterilisation on their behalf. This briefing paper has been jointly prepared by WWDA, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Open Society Foundations, and the International Disability Alliance (IDA) as part of the Global Campaign to Stop Torture in Health Care. The paper gives a background to the issue of forced sterilisation, outlines various international human rights standards that prohibit forced sterilization, and offers several recommendations for improving laws, policies, and professional guidelines governing sterilisation practices. Copyright November 2011.
Women With Disabilities Australia: Submission to the Australian Government’s Fifth Report under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)(November 2011)
The Committee Against Torture is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) by its State parties. All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. Australia’s fifth report to the Committee Against Torture is due in August 2012. In late 2011, WWDA was invited by the Australian Government to submit initial views on information we believe should be included in the Australian Government’s report. This document is WWDA’s brief submission to the Australian Government and focuses on forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities in Australia – a continuing state sanctioned practice which clearly gives rise to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. WWDA’s Submission is supplemented by an international briefing paper ‘Sterilization of Women and Girls with Disabilities’, published in October 2011 and prepared by WWDA, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Open Society Foundations, and the International Disability Alliance (IDA) as part of the Global Campaign to Stop Torture in Health Care. Copyright November 2011.
The World Medical Association (WMA) in conjunction with the International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organizations (IFHHRO) issued a Press Release on 5 September 2011, calling for an end to forced sterilization. It is reproduced here.
This Paper uses a human rights framework to document the range of data, research and information needed in order to give a comprehensive assessment of the situation of women with disabilities in Australia. The paper provides the context for this work by giving an overview of the intersection of gender and disability, as well as a brief background to the human rights imperative. Using key articles from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the paper then prescribes the key quantitative and qualitative data and research required under each article, and links this to Australia’s international human rights obligations and domestic policy context. Copyright WWDA July 2011.
In late June 2011, WWDA submitted a formal communication to the United Nations regarding the ongoing practice of forced sterilisation in Australia. WWDA’s Submission was sent simultaneously to four of the United Nations Special Rapporteurs, Mr. Shuaib Chalklen (Special Rapporteur on Disability); Mr. Anand Grover (Special Rapporteur on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health); Ms. Rashida Manjoo (Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women); and Mr. Juan E Mendez (Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). Copyright WWDA June 2011.
At its Executive Board Meeting in June 2011, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) released new Guidelines on ‘Female Contraceptive Sterilization’. These Guidelines recognise the long history of forced and coerced sterilisation of marginalised women, including women with disabilities, and provide detailed recommendations for when and how consent to sterilization can be obtained. Copyright FIGO June 2011.
This brief article first appeared in WWDA-News (Issue One, 2011). It gives a brief overview of the recommendations made to the Australian Government by the United Nations in relation to the on-going practice of forced sterilisation of girls and women with disabilities in Australia. Copyright WWDA 2011.