Human Rights Watch thanks the Committee for the opportunity to address you today, and extends a particular welcome to the new members of the CRPD Committee.

On the eve of five years since the CRPD came into force, it’s an important opportunity to reflect on what this treaty has done and can do for the 1 billion people with disabilities around the world. More than half of the world’s governments have ratified the Convention and we are beginning to see laws change – from the new rape law in India, which makes specific accommodations for women with disabilities who are victims of sexual assault to the Tokyo District court ruling that it is unconstitutional for the election law to deprive persons under guardianship of their right to vote and stand for public positions. We are also slowly beginning to see attitudes change from the medical model to a rights-based approach, but stigma, paternalism and exclusion continue to prevail in most countries. With the focus now on implementation, disability advocates, legal experts, and governments find themselves trying to interpret the scope of many CRPD provisions, making the work of the Committee all the more important. 

We are delighted that the Committee’s Day of General Discussion focuses this year on women and girls with disabilities, one of the priorities of Human Rights Watch’s disability work. We have documented a number of violations against women and girls with disabilities, particularly with regard to sexual and gender-based violence, barriers to justice, discrimination in health and reproductive rights, and discrimination in HIV services and education, which we will share during the session on Wednesday. Our submission in advance of your discussion on Australia focuses on women and girls with disabilities, as well as substitute decision-making and abuses against people with disabilities in healthcare settings and institutions.

This year, Human Rights Watch will deepen our body of work on abuses against women and children with disabilities with research in India and Lebanon.

Given the inter-sectionality of these rights, Human Rights Watch supports the call from Madame Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, to convene a joint meeting between CEDAW and CRPD Committee to address key issues facing women and girls with disabilities, and develop concrete recommendations to protect their rights and dignity.

We reiterate our appreciation to the Committee for its willingness to engage with civil society and welcome the decision by the UN General Assembly to add time to the Committee’s sessions, including for NGO pre-sessional meetings.

We wish you all a productive session.