Disability, Gender and Marriage
Any continuing physical or mental condition that hinders an individual’s movement or activity is a disability. It comes in many forms, as such has different impacts on individuals it affects and even tends to affects others (loved ones of the victims) indirectly.
People respond to disabilities in different ways. Some react to it negatively (which affects their quality of life) while others choose to rather focus on their abilities and live as normally as they can.
When the impact of a disability is weighed on both men and women, it is sad to admit the blow is harder on women; don’t get me wrong, when it comes to disability, victims (men or women) face one form of ableism discrimination or another but the women and girls again suffer the most, because on top of the disability, they’re females.
Ableism is the practices and dominant attitudes in a society that devalue and limit the potential of Persons living With Disabilities (PWDs). It is very common—sometimes with perpetrators unaware of what they are doing or totally in the dark as to the impact of their action on the PWD.
(Falvo, 2005) posits that one of the most significant factors determining a disability’s impact on an individual is the Individual’s Personality — whether the individual is typically positive or negative, dependent or independent, goal-oriented or laissez-faire. (Falvo, 2005) explains that, “someone with a positive outlook is more likely to embrace a disability than someone with a negative outlook. Someone who is independent will continue to be independent and someone who is goal-oriented will continue to set and pursue goals.”
That tells us some PWDs no matter the nature of their disability, push to make a life for themselves against all societal odds, for the women PWDs they have to work twice as hard just to be acknowledged; with this in mind, think of how much effort they’d have to put in to be given their due in the society.
Both men and women PWDs have their fair share of problems in today’s world, though some strides have been made so far in the fight against discrimination of PWDs in the world as a whole, to say a lot more needs to be done is flatly an understatement, especially in the area of work and association of any form (friendship, marriage etc).
With the ongoing orientation workshops and trainings to equip Kindergaten-primary six (6) teachers with the necessary skills ahead of the implementation of the new Standards Based Curriculum (SBC), it saddens me to say I am privy to information about how some Ghana Education Service (GES) officials in the Ashanti region question some headmasters over the relevance of bringing their disabled teachers for the training, meanwhile they’re teachers too, who are expected to get familiar with the new curriculum in order to give off their best in the classroom.
Unfortunately, this is just one of many other examples of how the PWD is discriminated against at the workplace. It is however important to note that, it is not a 100/100 situation because some employers are very welcoming of PWDs at their workplaces-all they want is for the PWD to show their worth like every other worker.
When it comes to marriage, the situation is dire, though again, not in all situations.
Both men and women PWDs are faced with one herculean situation or the other— some able women who introduce disable men to family and friends get weird reactions, with some “concerned” friends asking questions like, why, are you under some kind of spell; what is about this person; what do you see in him? Among other displeasing questions.
The able men on the other hand who introduce disabled women are not left out of this very unpleasant interrogation by loved ones. From the –you can get any woman you want comment, to the we don’t want this kind of woman in our family comment through to the weird looks, whispers, to say the least.
It is OK to show concern for a loved one’s choice of spouse or partner, that is indisputable but it is outright inhumane for the concern shown to center right around the fact that the partner in question is a disabled and not because of some attitudinal minuses or otherwise of the individual.
It is almost as if, it’s written somewhere in the constitution or in any religious book that a person with any form of disability at all is not fit for marriage. In the course of the research for this article, I stumbled upon a BBC article of an Indian young woman whose arm was amputated following a childhood accident, she meets a guy, they fall in love and the guy’s family had the effrontery to tell him he can date her but not marry her. Well, theirs had a happy ending because though they struggled, they eventually had the family’s blessing and tied the knot.
But how many have been or would be this lucky?
It’s almost as if to say; it’s your fault God made you a disabled so go suffer the consequences! PWDs are sometimes made to feel they don’t belong; they are not deserving of good things (whatever that good thing may be) and this becomes even more worrying for those people who define themselves by their looks or physical characteristic.
These people, research suggests are more likely to feel defined by their disability. Thus, they become too resident in their shells shackled in their own world, isolating themselves from the world that thinks so lowly of them—the resultant effect; depression, bitterness, suicidal tendencies to mention a few.
There are so many PWDs who have made it and several others making it in their chosen fields and as mothers and fathers as well as good spouses. The old saying–disability is not inability should be made to resonate more as it clearly hasn’t sunk in with some people yet.
There is the urgent need for the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the African Disability Protocol (of which Ghana is yet to ratify) as well as the Disability Act of 2006, ACT 715 to be put to good use if any strides would be made.
Until then, those of us who care will continue to dream of a day when people will look at persons with disability and see beyond what they see when they look at them.
Suraya Alidu Malititi