India

Indian mentally ill women 'at risk' - Human Rights Watch

A woman with a disability stands at the window of a night shelter run by Iswar Sankalpa, a Kolkata-based NGO, where women receive food, basic care, and access to voluntary treatment until they are ready to go back to their communities. Image copyright Shantha Rau Barriga/Human Rights Watch
Image caption The report says the women are "ridiculed, feared, and stigmatised"

Women and girls suffering from disabilities in India are forced into mental institutions and "treated worse than animals", says the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a new report.

The women live in unsanitary conditions and are at constant risk of physical and sexual violence, it says.

It calls on the government to inspect state and private facilities for women.

The government has not commented on the report's findings - it does not respond to such reports as a matter of policy.

The report released on Wednesday details the lives of women and girls with disabilities in six cities across India between December 2012 and November 2014.

Called "Treated Worse than Animals", the report is based on interviews with 52 women and girls who were in - or had been in - institutions, along with those of 150 doctors and family members.

'Ridiculed'

It says women are often dumped in overcrowded, state-run institutions lacking basic facilities, where mentally ill and disabled people are "ridiculed, feared, and stigmatised".

"Once they're locked up, their lives are often rife with isolation, fear and abuse, with no hope of escape," said Kriti Sharma, the report's author.

Both men and women suffer from a lack of care and neglect if they suffer from mental ailments in India. But women are more vulnerable to abuse.

"Women and girls with disabilities face unique challenges - including sexual violence and denial of access to reproductive health - that men do not."

An 11-year-old girl said in the report that she suffered physical violence in the institution where she lived.

"The house aunty [staff member] who drops me to school hits me. She hits me here [in the institution] too. She slaps me hard with her hand."

"When she hits me, I feel like crying and I feel sad. I feel like crying in school too. I want to leave this place."

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