Societal attitude and behaviours towards women with disabilities in rural Nepal: pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood
This study reviews the attitudes and behaviours in rural Nepalese society towards women with disabilities, their pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. Society often perceives people with disabilities as different from the norm, and women with disabilities are frequently considered to be doubly discriminated against. Studies show that negative perceptions held in many societies undervalue women with disabilities and that there is discomfort with questions of their control over pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, thus limiting their sexual and reproductive rights. Public attitudes towards women with disabilities have a significant impact on their life experiences, opportunities and help-seeking behaviours. Numerous studies in the global literature concentrate on attitudes towards persons with disabilities, however there have been few studies in Nepal and fewer still specifically on women.
A qualitative approach, with six focus group discussions among Dalit and non-Dalit women without disabilities and female community health volunteers on their views and understandings about sexual and reproductive health among women with disabilities, and 17 face-to-face semi-structured interviews with women with physical and sensory disabilities who have had the experience of pregnancy and childbirth was conducted in Rupandehi district in 2015. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and translated into English before being analysed thematically.
The study found negative societal attitudes with misconceptions about disability based on negative stereotyping and a prejudiced social environment. Issues around the marriage of women with disabilities, their ability to conceive, give birth and safely raise a child were prime concerns identified by the non-disabled study participants. Moreover, many participants with and without disabilities reported anxieties and fears that a disabled woman’s impairment, no matter what type of impairment, would be transmitted to her baby, Participants – both disabled and non-disabled, reported that pregnancy and childbirth of women with disabilities were often viewed as an additional burden for the family and society. Insufficient public knowledge about disability leading to inaccurate blanket assumptions resulted in discrimination, rejection, exclusion and violence against women with disabilities inside and outside their homes. Stigma, stereotyping and prejudice among non-disabled people resulted to exclusion, discrimination and rejection of women with disabilities. Myths, folklore and misconceptions in culture, tradition and religion about disability were found to be deeply rooted and often cited as the basis for individual beliefs and attitudes.
Women with disabilities face significant challenges from family and society in every sphere of their reproductive lives including pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. There is a need for social policy to raise public awareness and for improved advocacy to mitigate misconception about disability and promote disabled women’s sexual and reproductive rights.
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12884-019-2171-4