A new report has given insight into how vulnerable people living with disabilities can be prone to gender-based violence. The Hlanganisa Institute for Development in Southern Africa released the document in Johannesburg on Tuesday. It also provides recommendations for possible and appropriate responses at community level to this scourge.

Hlanganisa Institute works with gender-based violence especially at community level and tries to strengthen the response to the violence in communities. Bongiwe Ndondo, Execute Director of the Institute says that they realised that women are not a homogeneous group as there are women with different needs and, as a result, the institute needs to have different programmes.

Ndondo says that Hlanganisa undertook the study to understand the risk factors for women living with disabilities.

“So we undertook a study to understand the risk factors for disabled women and what makes their vulnerability so heightened and to also look at how we can work with organisations on the ground to improve and get their programmes to be more responsive to the needs of these women.”

Ndondo also says that what they realised while conducting research is that a lot of people in communities and families do not understand disabilities.

“The default position is to isolate people with disabilities and because there is so much stigma in our communities, they tend to be isolated and neglected. Often, young children with disabilities don’t get access to special schools, schools that can help them and be responsive to their needs. Also, adults with disabilities tend to get locked up during the day whilst family gets around doing what they have to do and that increases their levels of vulnerability because predators pounce on them in those moments of isolation.”

The institution says that courts often fail disabled victims of abuse as they do not consider them viable witnesses.