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Story | Research
1 March 2021

Stigmas surrounding disability create marriage and family obstacles, DIFI conference is told

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Stigmas surrounding disability create marriage and family obstacles, DIFI conference is told

Panel explores ways to tackle marital challenges facing people with disabilities

Challenges that people with disabilities throughout the world can face in forming a family, and the policies and support needed for these challenges to be overcome, have been discussed at an international conference on marriage organized by Qatar Foundation’s Doha International Family Institute.

Stigmas surrounding disability create marriage and family obstacles, DIFI conference is told - QF - 01

Panelist Takashi Izutsu highlighted that disability has come to be seen in the context of social barriers rather than as a medical condition.

In a discussion moderated by Akiko Ito, Chief of the United Nations Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Singapore, the experiences of panelist Dr. Mostafa Attia, a disability and inclusion Researcher, on the subject of disability and marriage shed light on social misperceptions of people with disabilities, and the obstacles they create in the marriage and family context.

There are a multitude of factors – segregated education, difficulty in people with disabilities accessing employment – which all reflect on a community’s understanding of what a person with disabilities is capable of.

Dr. Mostafa Attia

“There are a multitude of factors – segregated education, difficulty in people with disabilities accessing employment – which all reflect on a community’s understanding of what a person with disabilities is capable of,” he said.

“This results in society having limited understanding about people with disabilities, which leads to a stigma being associated with disability based on the way it is portrayed in cinema and theatre, as well as the labeling and stereotyping of a person with a disability. In the context of marriage, this leads to people with disabilities being thought of as unable to lead a family and having a limited capacity.”

Attia highlighted the importance of implementing awareness-raising campaigns that promote and introduce people with disabilities to the community not as “heroes”, but as individuals, and for disability rights to be part of them mainstream of social strategies, frameworks, and action plans, including those related to marriage and family formation. He also encouraged the production of documentaries made by people with disabilities to amplify their voices and help to tackle not only education and employment challenges, but also sociological and psychological challenges, while ensuring disability rights are at the heart of policy discussions.

The rate of employability of people with disabilities is very low – almost 75 percent are either not working at all or are part of an informal type of employment

Dr. Moussa Charafeddine

Another panelist, Takashi Izutsu, Global Coordinator for the University of Tokyo Forum on Disability and the SDGs, spoke about the issue against the backdrop of a conceptual framework adopted by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, leading to disability being seen in the context of social barriers rather than a medical condition.

Focusing on the convention’s article on family and disability, he said: “It includes the need to take measures to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood, and relationships including adoption, the right to marry and found a family, the right to decide freely and responsibly on the number of their children and to have access to age-appropriate information on reproductive and family planning education.”

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Dr. Moussa Charafeddine spoke about how disability affects marriage in a financial sense.

Meanwhile speaking about how disability affects marriage in a financial sense, Dr. Moussa Charafeddine, President of the Friends of the Disabled Association in Lebanon, said: “The rate of employability of people with disabilities is very low – almost 75 percent are either not working at all or are part of an informal type of employment, which doesn’t provide enough funding to support a family.

“Not all countries provide financial support or social security allowances for couples with disabilities, either to help them live independently or for childcare, which makes it a very difficult situation for many people with disabilities.”

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