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The Double Discrimination: A Dilemma of Gender Role and Disability


  1. Outcome of the module
  2. Introduction
  3. Objectives
  4. Content- gender issues among persons with disability

i.   Development of gender identity among children with disability

ii.   Discrimination of girls with disability

iii.  Challenges and crossing the barriers

  1. Conclusion
  2. References
  3. Materials required for the transaction
  4. Additional information
  5. Support materials


Prepared by  Gowramma I P, Associate Professor in Education, Regional Institute of Education, Bhubaneswar



1. Outcome of the module:

After transacting this module the participants would

  • Give equal opportunities to children with disabilities in all the activities of school to develop gender identity
  • Consider girls with disability as any other individual thereby encouraging their participation in classroom (academic and leadership) as well as school processes (art, cultural, sports and leadership)
  • Take proactive role in removing barriers and facilitating self-development of children with disabilities and thus creating opportunity to be independent contributing citizens of the society in general and for girls in particular


2. Introduction:

Every society has its construction that gives better status to certain sections of its population and not for certain others.  Disability is one such category that is stigmatised with sympathy for lesser capability to performance and pushed to the oblivion from time immemorial.  Resistance to social innovation, political inertia and inhuman treatment continue towards disability in our society.  This module observes the role of one such socio-cultural structure ‘gender’ in the society creating challenges for persons with disability to perform to their fullest capacity.

Another issue under consideration in this module is specifically of girls / women with disability.  Disability being a marginalised category in our social structure in a traditionally patriarchal society, it is but natural that a girl with disability suffers double disadvantage.  Every individual with disability when inflicted with additional marginalising condition access to resources become scantier.  Identifying the self for a growing girl is an arduous task under the segregation and discrimination.  According to a study in Odisha women with disabilities are less likely to seek care and service because of lack of awareness, negative past experience as well as discriminatory provider attitude (GOI, UNDP, 2007).   However, many challenges remain, one among them is the challenges of girls with disability in getting their right to education.  Every significant life area is distanced for persons with disability, education not being an exception. The complexity increases if the person is marginalised by a category of disability that is further ostracised socially.  Human Rights Watch (2014) observed that protection, services and gender sensitive services for women and girls with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities are largely absent.  They do not get support from family as they are deprived at home too.  However, policies and practices have successfully increased the demand for girls’ education, ranging from gender mainstreaming and policy reform to improving school infrastructure, reducing early marriage and adolescent pregnancy, and creating equitable school and classroom environments.  Many individuals and also girls have taken the advantage of these policy reforms to achieve success in life.


3. Objectives:

After the transaction of this module, the participating members:

  • Recognize the need for developing gender identity among persons with disabilities
  • Critically analyse the existing scenario and reflect upon the possible reasons for the discrimination against girls / women with disability.
  • Identify the factors that lead to development of gender identity among persons with disabilities with a focus on role of education.


4. Content – gender issues among persons with disability

There is wide range of meanings underscoring multiple implications and understandings of the lived experience of disability covering actual bodily experiences, cultural constructions and social expectations. While the impairment charges the self with devaluation, the social stigma relegates the person to margins of humanity. It is observed that persons with disabilities (PwD) experience a pervasive exclusion from ordinary life and the denial of full humanity (Murphy,1987).  The social and cultural perceptions of the PwD has implications for the personhood where their social and human status remains ambiguous.  They have to deal with the stigma of being labelled incompetent, resulting in feelings of humiliation, worthlessness and the perception of being considered not quite human.  Earning an identity is considered beyond the competence of PwD.  Women with disability face a double discrimination with the rigid stereotypes of being marginalised by gender in addition to the stigma of having a disability.


4.1 Development of gender identity among children with disability

Disability has to be seen not merely as an aggregate of impairments but the children inflicted with it have to be considered as individuals who face the same pressures as others to enact age and gender appropriate roles.  While acknowledging the double jeopardy faced by women with disability it is equally important to negotiate with boys/men particularly in the context of an increasingly competitive society where seemingly only the fittest are able to survive.  Towards realising these much needed breeze the role played by the central and state Governments, NGO and civil society in enhancing the life opportunities of PwD is commendable.  Constructs of personhood prevalent within different soico-cultural milieu have an impact on the spaces and opportunities available to PwD and on the way society views them.  The responsibility of school and teachers in bringing this much needed change is to be taken up with all vigour by the gender coordinators.


Activity 1

A video of advertisement of Samsung TV where the technician gets a call from a girl to set right the TV before a programme is astonished to see her with visual impairment when he reaches the place with lots of difficulty.  When he realises that it is a school for children with visual impairment his surprise increases.  When the TV gets repaired right on time and all children in the school gather in front of the visual media to enjoy the melodious singing of one of their school girl the technician understands that it is not the impairment that has to be seen but the person.  The message is hidden which has to be experienced by the viewers and discussed in open house.  The advertisement ends with the technician saying that it is worth struggling to reach the customer to enable them their right to watch the programme they would want to.  Link to video

The discussion has to focus on 1- persons with disability lead a life like any other persons.  2 – they also have their desires and they too enjoy simple pleasures of life just like those without disability.  3 – it is important to provide same opportunities to children with disabilities to experience life without any barrier.


Activity 2

A video of  a young child Tanzeel without limbs in a school.  He is expressing his wants just like other children, he loves to dance and enjoys dancing for music.  How his intention to play with his friends in the field is taken care of is depicted.  The hidden message in the video is, that as adults we assume that those children with disability are unable to do certain activities.  But we have to accept the way they do such activities within the limitations of their impairment.  The pleasure of dancing for a child without limbs need not be curbed just because he cannot dance like those with limbs.   The opportunity given for dancing is more important than to judge they way he is dancing.  The pleasure the child derives from his dance to his favourite music is to be cherished than anything else.  Link to video

The discussion can focus on 1.-  the mistake we do usually when we see a child without limbs. This can be taken further to discuss for children with other disabilities too.  2- how the children can be given opportunities to do everything in school like their peers are doing. 3- the need for change in attitude among teachers with regard to the capabilities of children with disabilities in their schools.


4.2 Discrimination of girls with disability

The 2008 Global Monitoring Report (GMR) identified three sets of provisions essential to improving the quality of learning in schools in general, but for girls in particular: enhancing the number and quality of teachers, including female teachers; reforming curricula and textbooks to remove gender bias; and making classroom practices more gender-sensitive through training (UNESCO, 2008). However, recent years have seen a growing focus on gender-based violence in the wider school environment. In order to reduce this teachers play a critical part in forming students’ understanding of gender roles. Teachers’ attitudes, practices and differential expectations of boys and girls in class can reproduce gender stereotypes and affect girls’ and boys’ motivation, participation and learning outcomes. In many settings, classroom observations show teachers of both sexes interacting more often with boys, thus encouraging passivity among girls (Eurydice, 2010). Research in the Republic of Korea found male students dominating interactions with teachers by being called on more often by teachers or calling out in class (Jung and Chung, 2006).  Those committed to gender equity fail to consider disability and those committed to disability equity fail to consider gender thus making the vulnerability of having both disability and gender an invisible section for access to basic services. The double disadvantage of girls with disability is obvious with lack of access to basic service like health and education, limited social, political and economic opportunities, greater risk for abuse and violence.  It is noticed that women with disabilities are twice as likely and girls with disabilities are four times more likely to be affected by violence compared to their peers without disability.


Activity 1

Vignettes from experience

  1. Sumati came to the institute with her son Vignesh when he was four years old for assessment and rehabilitation of hearing impairment. He was prescribed with hearing aid and therapy for an year to develop speech and language.  During her next visit to her home she brought the twin sister of Vignesh, Vidya who would accompany her mother and brother to the routine therapy.  Very soon it was noticed that neither Vidya had the ability to hear nor developed speech and language!! After persuading Sumati for sometime she got Vidya assessed and admitted to therapy sessions. The family never thought intervention for the same disability was also necessary for the daughter as much as it is for the son.
  2. Gita had suffered polio during her early childhood that left her legs weak making it hard for her to walk and play like her peers.  As Gita was very cheerful she had several friends in the class.Lina a neighbor and classmate was very close friend to her.  Lina was very fond of Gita and they would play in the evening in the neighborhood. But Gita’s mother would yell at her, beat her and take her inside not letting her play.  She was a good learner but neither school nor family acknowledged her academic performance.  What was highlighted was her disability and she was kept away from most of the activities both at home and school.  One fine day when she was in class 4 Gita did not come to school.  Lina went to enquire and was told that she went to her grandparents to stay with them.  That was the end of her schooling and later it was learnt that she was sent to an orphanage from where she never came home.


The participants will be grouped into 4 – 6 members in each.  They will discuss in their group and list the reasons for discrimination against the daughter in the vignette.  They would also ponder on how can society, teachers and parents play a role in changing such practices in society, home and school?  Further they would narrate one instance from their experience. Each person from a group will make a presentation on the points generated in discussion based on the focus questions.  RP will consolidate and make a presentation.


4.3 Challenges and crossing the barriers

In spite of the stigma, discrimination and lack of opportunity several persons with disability and many girls with disability have surpassed the challenge and developed themselves as contributing individuals to society.  Certainly they did face challenges and did stumble in their attempts.  But they had a will to succeed and support has come from corners unexpected.



  1. An article analyzing the success of two girls with hearing impairment will be supplied to participants. The analysis brings out certain factors that have contributed to their personal development. Link to article
  2. A news paper reports given  on the fight of an accident survivor with imputed lower limbs to get into medical college and her journey to complete MBBS degree.  Link to write-up
  3. An interview with a woman with cerebral palsy who qualified civil service examination that featured in the newspaper will be given. Link to write-up

Any other success story of individuals with disability crossing the hurdles to achieve can be used for the activity.

The participants will be made to sit in small groups.  They read, discuss and deliberate on 1. What are the factors that might have contributed to the success of the individual in the example you studied? 2. How can family and school ensure such acceptance to persons with disability to grow naturally? 3. The group will also identify a success story from their schools and record it.

Each person from a group will make a presentation on the points generated in discussion based on the focus questions.  RP will consolidate and make a presentation.  The success story documented by the groups would serve as a compendium for reading for teachers guiding them into knowing what works.


5. Conclusion

The human rights approach stressed the importance of the inalienable right of the individuals with ID to the same dignity as fellow human beings (Oliver, 1990). This has found expression in several proclamations of the UN and pro-disability legislation in many countries including India. Conceptions of intellectual disability in most of the countries including India absorb them within the circle of family and social networks creating spaces for them to function according to their capacities. It varies across culture as the way the individual conducts in social sphere or the economic competence. In India, anxieties of parents about the welfare of their children with disabilities intertwine with fears of tainted lives voiced by members of the extended kin group. Disability even now is regarded as a outcome of cosmic factor and in the absence of cure are accepted in a spirit of resignation, working against efforts to improve living conditions.

Disability is viewed in our society as dependency of an individual on others in the community.  Disability is still considered as those that are visible and attracts sympathy by the population.  The case of people with hidden / lesser known disabilities is dismal as they are misunderstood with families being targeted. When this is the social construct, the life of both male and female are analysed as how it is affecting their living in the society.


6. References

Philip, N. (2015). Culture and Poverty: A Case Study of a Girl with Special Educational Needs from a Poor Community in South India. Support for Learning, 30(3), pp205-222.

GOI, UNDP. (2007). Government of India, United Nations Development Programme, Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre, A Multi State Socio-Economic Study.

Mehrotra, N. and Vaidya, S. (2008). Exploring Constructs of Intellectual Disability and Personhood in Haryana and Delhi. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 15(2), pp 317-340. DOI: 10.1177/097152150801500206.

Human Rights Watch (2014). “Treated worse than animals”.  Abuses against women and girls with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities in institutions in India.  Human Rights Watch, USA.


7.  Materials required for transaction

  • LCD Projector
  • News paper clippings showing persons with disabilities / girls with disabilities crossing the hurdles to achieve success
  • Chart paper, plain paper, markers, crayons and sketch pens
  • PPTs

8. Additional information

Material for further learning

Books / e-books

Anderson, E. M., Clarke, L and Spain, B. (1982). Disability in Adolescence.  Methuen, & Co Ltd., London.

Journal / research articles

Limaye, S. (2008). The inner world of adolescent girls with hearing impairment: two case studies. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 15(2), pp 387-406. http://ijg.sagepub.com/content/15/2/387

Chakravarti, U. (2008). Burden of Caring: Families of the Disabled in Urban India. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 15(2), pp 341-363. DOI: 10.1177/097152150801500207.

Dawn, R. (2014). Our lives, our identity: women with disabilities in India. Journal of Disability and Rehabilitation. 36 (21).  <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/09638288.2310870237?journalCode=idre20>

Organisation to visit

SMRC – Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Center, working for empowerment of women with disabilities in Bhubaneswar. Coordinator Ms ReenaMohanthy 9437866283.  Participants may get to know similar groups working in their respective areas

For legal provisions may refer to 

1) Human rights provision: UN convention of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD 2006, article 6 women with disability), 2)  Convention on the elimination ofdiscrimination against women (CEDAW), 3) Convention on the rights of the child (CRC)

2) International framework : 4th world conference on women for inclusive and equitable education for all is now enshrined in goal 4 of the sustainable development goal 2015-2030.


9. Supporting materials for transactions for the RP

Inner world of adolescent girls with hearing impairment – two case studies by Sandhya Limaye http://ijg.sagepub.com/content/15/2/387

News paper cutting – Mumbai girl who lost both her legs stands tall. 27th Feb, 2016, TOI http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31808&articlexml=Girl-who-lost-her-legs-stands-tall-25022016013027


News paper cutting – We contribute equally – differently abled urgently need access, education, sensitivity. 8th Feb, 2016 TOI


Excerpt below is taken from the case studies given in the article “Exploring constructs of intellectual disability and personhood in Haryana and Delhi” by Nikila Mehrotra and Shubhangi Vaidya in Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 15:2 (2008) 317-340

Case 1 – An NGO run special school for intellectual impairment in Haryana

In the school run by the NGO for children with intellectual disability majority are found to be boys.  In the interview the principal admitted that parents are usually not ready to send daughters to schools.  The school conducts parent training programmes and builds a strong network among parents.  Parents have to be persuaded that it is not enough to provide the child with meals but to prepare them to spend leisure time in useful manner.  The NGO has launched early intervention and community based rehabilitation.  Training in the institute has given them sheltered employment thus contributing economically to their families.  Male children from middle class have greater access to the limited facilities.  There is still great deal of resistance to sending girls to residential schools.

Case 2 – A special school in Delhi for Autism

With shrinking of kinship bonds in the urban context and absence of social security strategies for the care of PwD after the death of parents.  Traditionally family and community support structures were strong which is withering now and there is no social security by the state too.  NGOs have assumed a magnified role in filling this gap.  Out of 55 children in the school 46 are boys.  In the context of discussion on masculinity and adulthood, there is a paucity of opportunity for young men with autism in the NGO to interact with men in the community.  Their relative lack of awareness about sexuality in general and their inappropriate sexual behaviour in particular lead to teasing or abuse by others.  There is paucity of male professionals in special education and therapeutic set up leading to poor access to role models to emulate.  Due to social skill deficit enacting female role is problematic for girls make it difficult for them to develop feminine behaviour.  Issues associated with privacy and personal hygiene are a big challenge that has to be handled with great understanding and concern.

You can download the full article from  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/097152150801500206