Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Indian women at risk in mental institutions

Published:Thursday | December 4, 2014 | 12:00 AM
From left to right, Human Rights Watch (HRW) activists Shantha Rau Barriga, Meenakshi Ganguly, Bhargavi Davar from Bapu Trust for Research on Mind and Discourse, HRW's Kriti Sharma, and Smriti Minocha from Human Rights Law Network, release a report titled "Treated Worse than Animals: Abuses against Women and Girls with Psychosocial or Intellectual Disabilities in Institutions in India," in New Delhi, India, yesterday.
A blind Indian man scuffles with a policeman as he participates with others in a rally demanding an increase in reservation for disabled people in government jobs, in New Delhi, India, yesterday.


Women and girls with disabilities in India are pushed into mental institutions, where they live in unsanitary conditions and are at constant risk of physical and sexual violence, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report yesterday.

The report details the lives of women and girls with disabilities in six cities across India, between December 2012 through November 2014, and involved more than 200 interviews with women and girls with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities as well as their families, caretakers, mental-health professionals, and government and police officials.

While India's public-health system is in a state of disrepair, those suffering from mental disabilities are especially vulnerable in country where there is little education about such illnesses and people who suffer from them are often either shunned or mocked.

Mental hospitals are still commonly called "mad houses" and in the absence of community support, families often cover up illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder instead of seeking help. Both men and women suffer from a lack of care and neglect, but in this deeply misogynistic country women are much more vulnerable to abuse.

"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 report called Treated Worse than Animals: Abuses against Women and Girls with Psychosocial or Intellectual Disabilities in Institutions in India, documents involuntary admission and arbitrary detention in mental hospitals and residential-care institutions across India.