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Shantha Rau Barriga
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Shantha Rau Barriga is the Director of the Disability Rights Division for Human Rights Watch.

Entries by Shantha Rau Barriga

Restricted by Chains and by the Law

(0) Comments | Posted July 5, 2016 | 10:58 AM


Music, loud and obtrusive, blares out across the Galuh Rehabilitation Center in Bekasi, Indonesia, on the outskirts of Jakarta. From inside their isolation cells, haggard men and women cling to the bars and cry out for help, for acknowledgement.

In a rural...

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Torture Comes in Many Forms

(1) Comments | Posted June 29, 2015 | 5:17 PM

Victoria is a 10-year-old girl with a mental disability who was put in Jesus Divine Temple (Nyakumasi) Prayer Camp, where she was chained to a tree all day and slept on a mat in an open compound. She had no relative present at the...

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Left Behind: The Case for Disability-Inclusive Development

(4) Comments | Posted September 21, 2013 | 11:42 AM

Two steep steps. This is what makes it so hard for Amman to go into his school like the rest of his classmates. His school's entrance has no ramp, and these two steep steps leave him no choice but to crawl into his classroom.

Amman, who has a physical...

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Indigenous Children With Disabilities Have Rights Too

(0) Comments | Posted August 7, 2013 | 1:49 PM

"Kekan Muan." These words uttered by a schoolmate in her native Tetidu language continue to haunt Ipul decades later. "Cripple, who do you think you are?"

Ipul had polio and has been in a wheelchair most of her life. When I met her during the UN Indigenous...

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Involuntary Treatment: The Invisible Health Care Crisis

(1) Comments | Posted March 5, 2013 | 12:57 PM

Imagine being taken to the hospital by a family member against your will, put in a solitary cell and forced to sleep, eat and defecate in the same 4x4 space. Imagine telling your nurses that you don’t want to take a certain medication because it causes serious side effects, yet...

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Ending Forced Sterilization of Women and Girls with Disabilities

(1) Comments | Posted July 10, 2012 | 12:45 PM

It's hard to think of many decisions more personal and life-altering than whether and when to have children. Of course, it isn't always a "decision." Even now, with modern family planning methods, becoming a parent is often unplanned, and sometimes unwanted. But for some women it is not being able...

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Vote for an End to Discrimination

(3) Comments | Posted November 11, 2011 | 3:24 PM

I voted on Tuesday. I climbed up the steps of the building where the voting took place, waited a short while, read the sample ballot, gave my name, signed in, and voted. Democracy in action.

But imagine if you needed someone to carry you up and down the stairs, if...

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Children With Disabilities: Please Stay Home

(1) Comments | Posted September 21, 2011 | 3:22 PM

Imagine for a moment that you are the father of a 13-year old girl with autism, living in Nepal. You approach public and private schools alike and are repeatedly told that the school can't handle your child.

So instead, you join with other parents of children with developmental disabilities...

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Democracy Disabled: Discrimination at the Polls

(0) Comments | Posted June 2, 2011 | 3:18 PM

Imagine registering to vote in the upcoming election, only to be told by a local government official not to go to the polling place because you would "spoil the election." Betty, a woman I met in northern Uganda, was told just that. Why? Because she is blind.

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The Sky Is the Limit for People With Disabilities

(5) Comments | Posted March 4, 2011 | 11:57 AM

With increasing security at airports around the world, flying has grown more stressful for all of us. But for people with disabilities, flying can be particularly daunting. Imagine if you were the Atlanta businesswoman who was asked to remove her prosthetic arm for further examination. Or if you were

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Breaking Through the Silence: HIV and the Deaf

(0) Comments | Posted December 1, 2010 | 5:39 PM

This week, different groups around the world are observing World AIDS Day and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, on December 1 and 3 respectively. Rarely have the two been observed together. At least until this year. Events hosted at UN headquarters in New York and the US State...

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Addressing a Missed Opportunity

(0) Comments | Posted September 21, 2010 | 12:47 PM

Why does the United Nations blueprint for lifting the world's poorest out of poverty not make any mention of people with disabilities? According to the World Bank, 1 in 5 of the poorest people in the world has a disability.

Ten years ago, the United Nations identified eight "Millennium Development...

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Left Out Twice: Living With HIV and Disabilities

(0) Comments | Posted July 21, 2010 | 12:28 PM

This post first appeared in the July 21, 2010 edition of Women's E-News

"I'm a woman with a disability. I am HIV-positive and I am on ARVs (antiretroviral drugs). My life is very hard."

These were the first words Immaculate, a 52-year-old landmine survivor in northern Uganda,...

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Voices to be Heard, In Harmony

(0) Comments | Posted May 3, 2010 | 4:37 PM

The documentary film, Music by Prudence, tells the story of a young Zimbabwean woman born with a congenital disease that twisted her body and led to the amputation of her legs. Prudence Mabhena was abandoned by her family and shunned by her community, yet through music, she found a way...

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Bringing Schools Up to the Standards of Prisons

(9) Comments | Posted April 26, 2010 | 4:33 PM

Over two hundred thousand kids are punished in US schools each year by being paddled. One in five of them has a disability. No child should be paddled in school but it is hard to imagine anything more outrageous than paddling or hitting children because of their disability --...

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