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Research Project of Women with DisabilitiesWomen with disabilities and the intersectionality of discrimination

writer: KAWAGUCHI, Naoko(Kinugasa Research Organization, Visiting Researcher) published: 2018-07

Intersectional discrimination and multiple forms of discrimination against women with disabilities

Since the 1990s it has gradually come to be understood that minority women, that is, women who belong or are seen as belonging to groups or categories in a socially marginalized or oppressed position (minorities), are faced with circumstances of multiple forms of discrimination, including not only discrimination on the basis of sex and gender but also discrimination on the basis of other factors such as “race,” ethnic origin, nationality, religion, disability, and sexual orientation.
These multiple forms of discrimination do not simply overlap, but exist in “complex relationships in which, in the midst of the multiple contexts that give rise to them, multiple forms of discrimination are distorted, come into conflict, and amplify and augment each other” (Ueno, 1996).
International systems for the protection of human rights, on the other hand, have for a long time dealt with all forms of discrimination by distinguishing them on the basis of their origin or rationale, as though they each occurred in a single dimension and were mutually exclusive (Moto, 2016). As a result, issues that are misaddressed on the basis of just one reason have been pointed out, and intersectional discrimination has been put forward as a perspective that simultaneously takes up discrimination as something that intersects (Crenshaw and Dobson, 2016).
As the twentieth century drew to a close, however, even in international human rights treaties attention began to be paid to the multifaceted and intersectional nature of discrimination. In the General Recommendation 28 (2010) issued by the committee in charge of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), reference is made to the intersectionality of discrimination, and it is asserted that as part of their obligations under Article 2 of the convention States parties must undertake initiatives addressing intersectional discrimination and multiple forms of discrimination.
When it comes to intersectional discrimination and multiple forms of discrimination against women with disabilities, studies of the actual state of affairs sufficient to allow for an understanding of their structure have not been carried out. Through this interview survey we aim to illuminate some aspects of these structures.

Reproductive health rights: a typical example of intersectional discrimination against women with disabilities.

The issue of reproductive health rights (rights ad health concerning sex and reproduction) presents a typical example of intersectional discrimination and multiple forms of discrimination against women with disabilities.
In an interview survey, women with disabilities spoke about how even today they experience things like denial of their existence as a sexual being, difficulties in obtaining gynecological care and examinations (accessibility/assistance), finding a hospital where they can give birth, and negative reactions toward the possibility of their giving birth to children with disabilities or toward a woman with a disability becoming a mother and raising children.
This issue is also strongly connected to other factors, such as “caregiver relationships and securing privacy,” “decisions about the administration of medication, such as stopping/reducing medication,” “relationship with own/partner’s family,” “economic position,” and “a support network of role models and people who are empathetic.”

Empowerment of women with disabilities

Since the time it was put in place, women with disabilities have objected to the now-defunct eugenic protection law as a violation of their reproductive health rights. The damage caused by forced sterilization surgery under this law is finally attracting attention within society. Victims have also begun to speak out.
As evidenced by these appeals concerning the damage caused under the eugenic protection law, women with disabilities are becoming aware of their own issues, and their initiatives to establish their own reproductive health rights can be described as self-advocacy and activities undertaken as part of their empowerment.


  • ASAKURA, M.(2016).The Concept of Multiple Discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 in UK.Review of gender and law (3), 33-55.
  • Chizuko U.(1996) “Fukugō sabetsu ron [On multiple forms of discrimination],” Shun Inoue et al. eds., Sabetsu to kyōsei no shakaigaku [Sociology of discrimination and co-existence], Iwanami Shoten,1, 204.
  • Crenshaw, K.(1991). Mapping the margins; intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color, Stanford Law Review, 43(6):1241-1299
  • Crenshaw, K. and Dobson, A.(2016).The Urgency of Intersectionality TED Talk, TED Women 2016,
  • Yuriko M.(2016)”Intersectional Discrimination against Monority Women and International Human rights Treaties” Review of gender and law(3),1-31.
  • Group demanding an apology for eugenic surgery ed.(2018). Yūseihogohō ga okashita tsumi [Crimes committed by the Eugenic Protection Law],expanded and revised edition, Gendai Shokan.

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Institute of Ars Vivendi. Ritsumeikan Univ.