Reaction to So-called Disability: Globally, persons with so-called disability face discrimination, stigmatization and abuse. But the case is worse in our clime, Africa, where mistakes are considered a crime and weaknesses as embarrassment.
The unfortunate implication of the foregoing is that the prevalent negative and unchallenged perception of the society and about the so-called disable children has affected their perception of the so-called disable people about themselves. This is very simple, it is called, socialization. In this case it is a disturbing socialization because you hard find the children tagged disable rising above the limitations placed on them by the society as a result of their so-called disability.
It is important to note that the general perception of the society has also affected the primary caregivers of the children, who are overwhelmed by the fact that their children are said to be disable.
In view of the foregoing permit me to touch briefly on some of the general reactions of the society, primary and secondary caregivers of the children, who are tagged disabled:
1. Rejection: Many primary caregivers (Parents/Guardians) consider themselves unfortunate when they have a child, who is said to be disable and their first and natural reaction is shame and anger. Confronted with the fear of stigmatization, the primary caregiver rejects the child as they see the child as a source of embarrassment. In some extreme cases, the parents of children with so-called disability abandon their children.
Outside the Circle is a report ofresearch conducted by Plan International, published in September 2013, which provides in-depth information on the negative attitudes, discrimination and violence that children with disabilities face across West Africa, quoted a social worker from Togo, saying, ‘In my community, children with cerebral palsy who cannot stand are called snakes because they lie on the ground. To eliminate such children, ceremonies are organised at the river, where the affected child is left to drown and it is said that the snake is gone,’
2. Abuse and discrimination: Discrimination is the second reaction both from the primary and secondary caregivers. It is important to note that the root of discrimination is rejection. Same way there is discrimination on the basis of sex, so there is discrimination on the basis of so-called physical and mental disability. Rejection and discrimination pave the way for all forms of abuse against the child, who said to be living with disability.
According to the State of the World Children report of 2013 compiled and published by UNICEF, ‘children with disabilities are three to four times more likely to be victims of violence…They are also thought to be at significantly greater risk of violence than their peers without disabilities.’
The report further states, ‘to this end, research teams at Liverpool John Moores University and the World Health Organization conducted the first systematic review, including meta-analysis, of existing studies on violence against children with disabilities (aged 18 years and under). Seventeen studies, all from high-income countries, met the criteria for inclusion in the review. Prevalence estimates of violence against children with disabilities ranged from 26.7 per cent for combined measures of violence to 20.4 per cent for physical violence and 13.7 per cent for sexual violence. Estimates of risk indicated that children with disabilities were at a significantly greater risk of experiencing violence than peers without disabilities: 3.7 times more likely for combined measures of violence, 3.6 times more likely for physical violence and 2.9 times more likely for sexual violence.’
Also the reports submits, ‘Studies from the United States have shown that children with disabilities who are in preschool or younger are more likely to be abused than peers without disabilities. A national survey of deaf adults in Norway found that girls were twice as likely to experience sexual abuse, and boys three times as likely, as peers who had no disability. Children who may already be suffering stigma and isolation have also been shown to be more likely to suffer physical abuse.’
According to the report, ‘the type of disability appeared to affect the prevalence and risk of violence, although the evidence on this point was not conclusive. For instance, children with mental or intellectual disabilities were 4.6 times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than their non-disabled peers.’
The report concludes, ‘this review demonstrated that violence is a major problem for children with disabilities. It also highlighted the absence of high quality studies on the topic from low and middle income countries, which generally have higher population rates of disability, higher levels of violence and fewer support services for those living with a disability. This gap in the research urgently needs to be filled.’
Tomorrow, I will continue on the reaction of our society to what is called disability. I charge you dear reader to Think The CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the FUTURE…