HRW says women with disabilities `treated worse than animals' in mental hospitals
Narendra Ch | 04 Dec 2014

Women and girls with disabilities in India are forced into mental hospitals and institutions, where they face unsanitary conditions, risk physical and sexual violence, and experience involuntary treatment, including electroshock therapy ,Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today. As one woman put it, they are "treated worse than animals."

In a new report released today, Human Rights Watch found that women forcibly admitted to government institutions and mental hospitals suffer grave abuses and called for the government to take prompt steps to shift from forced institutional care to voluntary community-based services and support for people with disabilities.

"Women and girls with disabilities are dumped in institutions by their family members or police in part because the government is failing to provide appropriate support and services," said Kriti Sharma, researcher at Human Rights Watch. "And once they're locked up, their lives are often rife with isolation, fear, and abuse, with no hope of escape."

The Indian government should immediately order inspections and regular monitoring of all residential facilities – private and government-run – for women and girls with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities, Human Rights Watch said. India should also take steps to ensure people with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities can make decisions about their lives and receive treatment on the basis of informed consent.


The 106-page report, "Treated Worse than Animals': Abuses against Women and Girls with Psychological or Intellectual Disabiliteis in Indistutions in India," documents involuntary admission and arbitrary detention in mental hospitals and residential care institutions across India, where women and girls with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities experience overcrowding and lack of hygiene, inadequate access to general healthcare, forced treatment – including electroconvulsive therapy – as well as physical, verbal, and sexual violence. In one case, a woman with both intellectual and psychosocial disabilities was sexually assaulted by a male staff member in a mental hospital in Kolkata.


The report also examines the multiple barriers that prevent women and girls with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities from reporting abuses and accessing justice.HRW says that the Indian government should pursue urgent legal reforms, including amending two bills currently before parliament, to address these abuses and protect the rights of women and girls with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities.


The report analyzes the situation of women and girls with disabilities in six cities across India. Research was conducted from December 2012 through November 2014 in New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, and Mysore, and is based on more than 200 interviews with women and girls with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities, their families, caretakers, mental health professionals, service providers, government officials, and the police.  Human Rights Watch visited 24 mental hospitals or general hospitals with psychiatric beds, rehabilitation centers, and residential care facilities.