Being a disabled woman in Korea means you are exposed to double discrimination: for being physically or mentally challenged and for being female.
The government estimates that there are nearly 5 million disabled people in Korea ― half of them women. As minorities, they face difficulties in every area of their lives.
Most seriously, disabled women can be exposed to sexual assault.
According to a study on 1,583 females nationwide by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs last year, 1 percent of mentally disabled women had been raped in the previous year and about 2.1 percent had been victims of attempted rape in the same time period.
A woman locks herself in a prison-shaped cardboard box calling for the end of social discrimination against impaired people at a protest in front of South Gyeongsang provincial government in Changwon, Tuesday, ahead of the Day of Persons with Disabilities. (Yonhap News)
This is equivalent to one in every 100 mentally disabled females being raped last year and another two at risk of becoming victims, the ministry said, adding that an additional 5.2 percent were victims of sexual harassment.
“I think the actual number of victims is much higher because many people tend to conceal their case rather than taking it out into the light,” Kwoun Sun-ji, head of Daegu Differently Abled Women United, told The Korea Herald on Tuesday, a day ahead of the Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Kwoun, who runs a counseling center for disabled women who have suffered sexual assault, said that society is still not doing enough to prevent such crimes.
According to a petition by a group of disabled people to the National Human Rights Commission, out of 239 cases of sexual assault and harassment filed to the prosecution in 2009, only 39 percent led to indictment.
“The law stipulates that a victim’s ‘desperate resistance’ to a completed rape attempt constitutes rape. However, many investigators downgrade a disabled victim’s testimonies of resistance and simply would not acknowledge the crime,” Kwoun added.
The gang rape of a mentally disabled school girl by 12 high school students last year, a middle-aged villager who repeatedly raped a mentally ill teenager over three years, and many other similar cases were given leniency for this reason.
Kwoun said that victims’ family members, therefore, tend to keep such crimes to themselves. The victims often develop depression and are even neglected by their non-disabled family members, she added.
Kwoun, who has polio, called for the government to establish more shelters for the disabled female victims of sexual assault so that they can talk more easily about their trauma and start a fresh chapter in their lives. Currently, there are only three facilities in the country offering sex crime victims a comfortable atmosphere.
Rep. Choi Young-hee of the main opposition Democratic Party has recently submitted a bill to scrap the desperate resistance condition for sexual assaults but it is still pending at the National Assembly. The law revision would be expected to encourage more females to speak out.
“Yes, the society has improved for disabled people. But it isn’t enough. We will strive to reach equal status,” Kwoun said.
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com
성폭력 위험에 노출된 여성장애인들
한국 여성장애인들은 심각한 성적학대의 위험에 노출되어 있으며 이들을 위한 법적 제도적 보호장치는 여전히 미흡하다.
여성가족부가 작년에 1,583명의 여성을 대상으로 한 조사에 따르면 여성 정신장애인 100명 가운데 1명이 성폭행을 당했고 2명 가량이 성폭행 시도에 노출되었으며 5명 정도가 성적학대를 겪은 것으로 나타났다.
정부 통계에 따르면 우리나라 장애인 수는 5백만 명에 이르고 절반 정도가 여성이다.
대구 여성 장애인 상담소 권순지 소장에 따르면 성적 폭력을 당하거나 위험에 노출된 여성들은 보통 피해 사실을 감추기 때문에 실제 숫자는 훨씬 더 많을 것이라고 한다.
작년에 고등학생 12명이 한 정신장애 여학생을 집단 강간한 사건이나 중년의 마을 남자가 정신장애 십대 소녀를 3년 동안 강간한 사건 등이 적발되었다.