Mama su vaiku laukuose saulėlydžio fone
Pexels nuotr.
30th March 2024
Society does not want to see women with disabilities who are married and have children, the survey shows

Almost half of the population of Lithuania believes that the pregnancies of women with intellectual disabilities can be terminated without their consent, and most believe they should not give birth at all. These provisions were revealed by a representative survey of public opinion commissioned by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson.

“The survey data showed that the freedom of women with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities to marry and have children is strongly questioned by society. What is most saddening and shocking is the widespread attitude towards abortion without the mother’s consent. Such an action would be a fundamental violation of human rights,” says Mintautė Jurkutė, an expert at the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson.

Giving birth is irresponsible behavior

According to the data of a representative study, 42 percent of respondents are convinced that a doctor has the right to terminate the pregnancy of a woman with an intellectual disability without consulting her. In the case of psychosocial disability, the corresponding percentage was almost a third (31%).

The graph with the answers compares the answers of 2022 and 2024: in 2022 - 48 percent completely or partially agree that a doctor can terminate a woman's pregnancy without her consent if she is with intellectual disability , 24 percent neither agree nor disagree, 28 percent completely or partially disagree. In 2024 - 42 percent agree, 24 percent neither agree nor disagree, 34 percent completely or partially disagree. Another graph with the answers compares the answers of 2022 and 2024 about the same statement when a woman is with mobility disability: in 2022 - 13 percent completely or partially agree, 31 percent neither agree nor disagree, 56 percent completely or partially disagree. In 2024 - 10 percent agree, 25 percent neither agree nor disagree, 65 percent completely or partially disagree.

Even 70 percent of respondents are convinced that women with intellectual disabilities behave irresponsibly by choosing to have children. More than half (54%) agreed with the same statement if the woman has a psychosocial disability.

The graph with the answers compares the answers of 2022 and 2024: in 2022 - 69 percent completely or partially agree with a statement that women are acting irresponsibly in choosing to have children when they are with intellectual disability, 18 percent neither agree nor disagree, 14 percent completely or partially disagree. In 2024 - 70 percent agree, 19 percent neither agree nor disagree, 11 percent completely or partially disagree. Another graph compares the responses of 2022 and 2024 of the same statement when a woman is with mobility disability: in 2022 - 33 percent completely or partially agree, 34 percent neither agree nor disagree, 33 percent completely or partially disagree. In 2024 - 29 percent agree, 34.5 percent neither agree nor disagree, 37 percent completely or partially disagree.

For almost a third (31%) of those surveyed, it seems to be normal if a man is ashamed to appear in public with a partner who has an intellectual disability; for a fifth (23%), it seems the same if the woman has a psychosocial disability.

The graph with the answers compares the responses of 2022 and 2024: in 2022 - 29 percent completely or partially agree with a statement that it is normal for a partner/spouse to be embarrassed to appear in public with a partner/spouse who is with intellectual disability, 25 percent neither agree nor disagree, 46 percent completely or partially disagree. In 2024 - 31 percent agree, 24 percent neither agree nor disagree, 45 percent completely or partially disagree. Another graph compares the responses of 2022 and 2024 about the same statement when a woman is with mobility disability: in 2022 - 13 percent fully or partially agree, 22 percent neither agree nor disagree, 64 percent completely or partially disagree. In 2024 - 12 percent agree, 25 percent neither agree nor disagree, 63 percent completely or partially disagree.

Lithuanians are even more skeptical about starting a romantic relationship – only about a tenth of the respondents would not mind if their son married a woman with an intellectual or psychosocial disability. There are far more people who oppose such marriages than those who support them when it comes to other disabilities as well. A daughter-in-law with mobility, visual, or hearing disabilities would be acceptable to only a fifth of the respondents on average.

The graph with the answers compares the answers of 2022 and 2024: in 2022 - 11.5 percent fully or partially agree with a statement "I would not mind my son marrying a woman with intellectual disability", 20 percent neither agree nor disagree, 69 percent completely or partially disagree. In 2024 - 11 percent agree, 23 percent neither agree nor disagree, 66 percent completely or partially disagree. Another graph with the answers compares the responses of 2022 and 2024 about marrying a woman with mobility disability: in 2022 - 22.5 percent completely or partially agree, 30 percent neither agree nor disagree, 47 percent completely or partially disagree. In 2024 - 23 percent agree, 36 percent neither agree nor disagree, 41 percent completely or partially disagree.

A closer encounter changes the perspective

According to M. Jurkutė, a representative of the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, the population’s attitudes towards the independence of women with disabilities are based on outdated stereotypes.

“We conducted a same research two years ago. There are changes, but they are small. It is clear that a large part of the population strongly doubts the independence of women with disabilities, so they tend to limit it or support such restrictions. Such an attitude is related to the fact that it is still not normal to see persons with disabilities in our society, even more so in close surroundings,” states M. Jurkutė.

The graph compares the responses of 2022 and 2024: in 2022 - 35 percent completely or partially agree with a statement that a doctor can terminate a woman's pregnancy without her consent if she is with psychosocial disability, 29 percent neither agree nor disagree, 36 percent completely or partially disagree. In 2024 - 31 percent agree, 23 percent neither agree nor disagree, 46 percent completely or partially disagree.

She is seconded by Vilnius University associate professor and sociologist Jurga Mataitytė-Diržienė, who points out that people with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, have been isolated for many years, and the reverberations of such a phenomenon are felt to this day. According to the scientist, the integration of these people into society has been going on for some time, and the attitude is changing little by little, but not fast enough.

“It is clear that when you get to know people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities more closely, stereotypes fade away quite quickly. We have conducted surveys when group living homes where people with intellectual/psychosocial disabilities live were established in Marijampole. The locals were frightened at first, but after a while, they admitted that they no longer noticed that those people were something different. They adapted perfectly, and the residents were convinced that their anxiety was unfounded,” says the scientist.

Evaluating the research data

J. Mataitytė-Diržienė notices that those who are far from people with various disabilities tend to infantilize these people. “Such assessment through the prism of ‘eternal children’ is fundamentally wrong. It ignores the fact that they have the same needs as the rest of us, the same freedoms and rights. Only, of course, they need specific help and education, which is often lacking,” says the sociologist.

There is a lack of individual help and sex education

According to J. Mataitytė-Diržienė, not all municipalities can provide a personal assistant or other services that meet individual needs. “Those who do not provide them claim that there is no need for such services, but it will not appear in an empty place. On the other hand, there are parents with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, and if such families find themselves in the focus of social assistance services, then social services are usually child-oriented, and the special needs of parents due to disabilities remain forgotten. There is a particular lack of sex education, especially adapted to persons with disabilities,” says the docent.

Mintautė Jurkutė, an expert at the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, notes that the situation would change faster if women with disabilities were given better conditions to receive comprehensive assistance.

“We are talking about a complex approach at the state level. Most women with disabilities are able to get an education, create meaningful relationships, give birth and raise children, and work. The obstacles to this are the environment that is not adapted to them, from discriminatory beliefs that even tolerate violence against women to the lack of an individual support system and the failure to create flexible working conditions. If these obstacles are removed, both the rights situation of persons with disabilities in the country and society’s attitude towards these people would improve more quickly,” M. Jurkutė notes.

 

A representative survey of the Lithuanian population was conducted on March 15-23, 2024. It was conducted by the public opinion and market research center “Vilmorus”. 1000 people over 18 years old were surveyed.

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