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What are Human Rights?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death.

Rights are things you are allowed to be, to do or to have. This page lists and explains some of the main human rights that all people have.

Watch the Australian Human Rights Commission video (external website) 'What are Human Rights?':

Tip: Click the subtitles button in the bottom right hand corner of the video to turn closed captions on and off.

Our human rights

Human rights support people to live safely and freely. Every person has these rights, regardless of their disability, race, colour, gender, religion, economic status or cultural background.

Our human rights include:

  • The right to be free and equal: We are all born free. We all have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated in the same way.
  • The right to be free from all forms of violence and abuse: We all have the right to a life without any sort of violence. Nobody has any right to hurt us in any way.
  • The right to equality in law: The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly.
  • The right to privacy: Nobody has the right to come into our home, open our letters, or bother us or our family without a good reason.
  • The right to family: We all have the right to have a partner, to marry and to have a family if we want to.
  • Food and shelter: We all have the right to basic needs like food, warmth, safe drinking water and a home.
  • Right to health: We all have the right to make decisions about our health and to access healthcare and medicine when we need it.
  • The right to work and education: We all have the right to go to school, get an education, have a job and to be paid fairly for the work we do.
  • The right to political participation: We all have the right to take part in things like voting in elections and holding political views.
  • The right to government support: We all have the right to receive government money to live on if we cannot work, are sick, studying, or if we are caring for another person.
Tip: You can learn more about your rights in the WWDA Human Rights Toolkit

Why are rights important for women and girls with disability?

Approximately 20% of women and girls in Australia live with disability. That’s around 2 million people. [1]

Like everyone else, women and girls with disability all have different lives and life experiences. As a group, however, women and girls with disability experience unfair treatment in nearly all areas of life.

In Australia, women and girls with disability:

  • have lower workforce participation (53.4%) and higher unemployment rates (10.3%) than people without disability [2]
  • are more likely to experience and face homelessness and are much more likely to be affected by the lack of affordable housing. Twice as many people with disability who are over 55 seek help from homelessness services compared to people without disability [3]
  • are often denied the ability to make choices about basic things like what to eat, where and who to live with, when to go out and where to go [4]
  • experience high rates of forced contraception, sterilisation and abortion [5]
  • experience violence at much higher rates (47%) than people without disability (36%) [6]
  •  are forced to live in institutions, like residential care facilities and aged care facilities in order to receive social and personal care supports [7]
  • are often denied the right to experience their sexuality, to have sexual relationships and to found and maintain a family [8]
  • are less likely to successfully secure National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) services than men with disability [9]
  • are almost twice as likely to experience sexual harassment and/or violence compared to men with disability. [10]

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a term used to describe how people who belong to more than one minority group can experience multiple forms of discrimination. For example, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women with disability may experience more discrimination than non-Indigenous women with disability due to racist attitudes that exist in the community.

Photo of an Aboriginal woman holding a biscuit.

While all women with disability are disadvantaged compared to people without disability, women and girls with disability who belong to another minority group (or groups) are even more likely to experience disadvantage and may experience it more strongly.

These minority groups include:

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex queer, questioning or asexual (LGBTIQA+) people
  • culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women
  • elderly women
  • women living in rural or remote locations.


Watch the video below to learn more about intersectionality (external website):

Tip: Click the CC button in the bottom right hand corner of the video to turn closed captions on and off.

Footnotes

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) People with Disability in Australia (external link).
[2] Australian Network on Disability (2019) Disability Statistics (external link).
[3] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017) Specialist Homelessness services report 2016-2017 (external link).
[4] Women With Disabilities Australia (2016) Position Statement 2: Right to Decision-Making.
[5] Women With Disabilities Australia (2016) Position Statement 4: Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
[6] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) People With Disability in Australia (external link).
[7] Senate Community Affairs References Committee (2015) Adequacy of existing residential care arrangements available for young people with severe physical, mental or intellectual disabilities in Australia (external link).
[8] Women With Disabilities Australia (2016) Position Statement 4: Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
[9] Malbon, E. and Carey, G. (2019) Women, Rural and Disadvantaged Australians may be Missing Out on Care in the NDIS (external link).
[10] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) People with Disability in Australia: Sexual Harassment (external link).

Important resources

Guides
WWDA Human Rights Toolkit
A toolkit split into 8 sections with information to help women with disability understand and stand up for their rights.
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WWDA Youth Human Rights Workbook
A workbook to help young women with disability learn about human rights.
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WWDA Easy English Human Rights Toolkit
A toolkit split into 4 parts with information in Easy English to help women with disability understand and stand up for their rights.
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External website
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) General Comment 3: Women and Girls with Disability
United Nations document about the rights of women and girls with disability in Plain English.
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Where to next

External website
Girls Rights Platform
A Plan International website to help young activists stand up for their rights.
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External website
Australian Human Rights Commission
The national organisation in Australia that supports your rights.
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United Nations (UN)
The international organisation that supports your rights around the world.
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External website
Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)
WWDA website where you can find a range of government submissions, reports and publications about women and girls with disability.
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Apps
Women's Human Rights App
An App to help you understand the United Nations Conventions and how they relate to women.
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Videos
TED Talk: The Urgency of Intersectionality
This video is of a TED Talk that was given by Kimberle Crenshaw about the term she coined, called Intersectionality.
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