BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Meet Mariana Reuter, a member of the Spotlight Initiative’s civil society reference group in Argentina. She coordinates ‘Sordas Sin Violencia,’ a UN-supported programme that provides services to deaf women who experience intimate partner violence in Buenos Aires. Deaf herself, Mariana understands the obstacles hearing-impaired women face when they seek help.

A 2018 global study from the United Nations Population Fund revealed that girls and young women with disabilities, face up to 10 times more gender-based violence than those without disabilities. Girls with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. Deaf women are also twice as likely as hearing women to experience intimate partner violence.

"The information on violence against women that circulates on the mass media is not in sign language. Deaf women remain unaware of the available support services.” - Mariana Reuter

Mariana believes one of the major issues deaf women face is access to support services. “There is a lot of information on violence against women that circulates on the mass media,” Mariana said. “But this information is not in sign language. Deaf women remain unaware of the available support services.”

Mariana Reuter at the launch of Spotlight Initiative in Argentina

The limited access to formal education is another obstacle that survivors face when seeking help. “Many deaf people cannot read or write well, as they often drop out of school at an early age,” Mariana explained. “They often do not understand the technical jargon around gender-based violence and often have difficulty filing written complaints of abuse.” She believes representatives from institutions of justice — such as police officers — should be better educated and trained to help deaf people. “It is rare to find sign language interpreters or deaf mediators in the judicial system,” Mariana said.

"Communication is crucial. It is the only way a survivor can feel her interlocutor’s empathy." - Mariana Reuter 

Sordas Sin Violencia is providing adapted communications tools such as video calls and other technologies to facilitate sign language interpretation for survivors. “It is absolutely crucial,” said Mariana. “It is the only way a survivor can feel her interlocutor’s empathy. These tools can improve assistance from psychologists, lawyers and other service providers.”

With ‘leaving no one behind’ as a core principle, Spotlight Initiative programmes are targeting women who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination — including women with disabilities. In Argentina, the Initiative will build on the lessons from a 2017 UNDP-supported programme implemented in conjunction with Sordas Sin Violencia, to ensure that deaf women and fully included and reached in all efforts to end femicide.

By Adrián Arden