Disabled women in India 'locked up, abused'

Wed Dec 3, 2014 10:53am EST
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By Katie Nguyen

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Vidya was alone at home in the Indian city of Mumbai when three people posing as government health workers knocked on her door.

After convincing the 45-year-old to let them in, they forcibly sedated her and took her away. She woke up in a private mental hospital with barbed wire on the windows, where she was medicated against her will and forced to undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

"I was like a vegetable," Vidya said.

She told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that her husband had her admitted because he wanted to divorce her on grounds of cruelty and "mental illness".

Women and girls with disabilities in India are routinely locked away in mental hospitals and institutions where they face abuse, overcrowding, filthy conditions and medical treatment against their will, the human rights watchdog said on Wednesday.

"Women and girls with disabilities are dumped in institutions by their family members or police in part because the government is failing to provide appropriate support and services," HRW researcher Kriti Sharma said in a statement.

"And once they're locked up, their lives are often rife with isolation, fear, and abuse, with no hope of escape."

At least 70 million Indians live with psychosocial disabilities like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and more than 1.5 million have intellectual disabilities such as Down Syndrome.   Continued...