A women’s shelter (Kvennaathvarfið) has been open in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, for 38 years. The shelter provides housing, counselling and other services for women, and their children, that are sufferers of violence. Despite the intention of supporting all women, the shelter has never been accessible to disabled women and children.
On the 28th of August a new Women’s Shelter opened its doors in Akureyri. While that is a reason to celebrate, it also reminds us how we have to do better. We have to work harder in preventing and eliminating gender based violence!
How are the women’s shelters (still) not accessible?
We should have opened an accessible shelter 38 years ago. We should have made the shelter accessible at some point during these 38 years. But even more appalling is the fact that we are opening a new shelter today, that is also inaccessible.
There are plans to build a shelter in Reykjavík that has apartments that will be accessible to all. There are plans for that building to be ready in 2021 (link to page about accessibility). Forty years of disregard and not showing support is still way too long. We can’t keep ignoring disabled women in our fight for equality.
Disabled women react
Jana Birta, a disabled artist (Facebook, Instagram), and Tabú, a feminist disability movement (Facebook, Web Page), have both pointed out the lack of support for disabled women in Iceland that are, and have been, sufferers of violence. Jana Birta illustrated a powerful image to show how inaccessible the women’s shelters in Iceland are.
Statement from Tabú:
Translated from Icelandic:
Research has shown that disabled women are likelier to be subjected to violence than non-disabled women. This fact is one of the reasons that Tabú exists. It is also why we have focused on discussions and coverage of issues related to violence from the beginning. In spite of this we recently got news that the recently opened Women’s Shelter in Akureyri is located in an inaccessible building. This is also true of the Women’s Shelter in Reykjavík. We are exhausted from fighting for improved accessibility. A new resource for survivors of violence should not be opened unless accessibility is guaranteed!
I have been intending on starting this blog for months now, but finally have the time (and lack of procrastination) to start it now, when the whole world seems to be at a standstill.
Even though most of our lives seem less hectic these days, our minds are certainly not, and our news are certainly not.
Covid 19 and domestic violence
Like everywhere else in the world these days, here in Iceland we are very worried about women and children in relation to domestic violence and abuse. The Icelandic police share that concern and they have released a video across many platforms voicing that concern and also urging the public to report any incidents that might relate to domestic violence. This is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to responding to domestic violence, but there are still concerns that this is too little, too late, and that domestic violence should always be on the forefront and be worked from the angle of prevention, that is to prevent people from committing any form of abuse.
There have already been two murders in Iceland during the gathering ban (1, 2), that has been going on since the 13th of March. In both cases the victims are women, and in both cases the perpetrators are men. It has not been confirmed that these are the results of domestic violence, but looking at history, that is highly likely. To prevent horrible tragedies like these happening again, Iceland as a society really has to step up when it comes to preventing domestic violence all together.
Covid 19 and the healthcare industry
Last week the number of people in Iceland infected with Covid 19 got to over 1000 people, and now we are over 1500. Like almost anywhere else in the world, there has been tremendous pressure on our health care workers recently, but recently our attention here in Iceland has been focused on nurses.
Nurses here in Iceland are mostly female, and they are understaffed, and underpaid. Since they are understaffed, they have been paid a sort of bonus for some time for taking on extra shifts, but that bonus was only paid until February 2020, since the deal around it didn’t reach further than that. Nurses, and of course the entire community here in Iceland, are very angry that this deal wasn’t renewed and also that they have been able to reach a deal with the government in regards to their salaries for over a year now. Their value is especially apparent these days, and people are generally very supportive of their battle. (1, 2, 3)
There was one case of Covid 19 detected in a spouse that was staying with their partner and child for five days at the postnatal unit in Reykjavík. After that rules regarding those areas of the hospitals have been tightened, but as of right now, partners are still allowed to attend the births of their children. They are not allowed to attend anything else, like check-ups or scans, and are even urged to wait at home or on the parking lot. This of course takes a lot of support away from expectant parents, who are mostly very anxious about the situation. (1)
Another big thing that happened recently in regards to children and parents rights was that a bill, made by our minister of justice, has been passed through our government. If the bill becomes a law children in Iceland can register their home with both their parents. This is important since this will give both parents equal access to everything that comes with having a child and doesn’t require one parent to pay child support if the child is living equally with both parents. This is of course a law that needs to happen, but many women are anxious about it and feel like this is not the time for the passing of this law, since other issues need to be addressed first like domestic violence and such, where this new law could be used to oppress and abuse through children. (1)
Last weekend we had a case where a disabled person that has support workers suspected she had Covid 19. When looking for directions on how to proceed to ensure that she, her family, her support workers and everyone else was as safe as could be she hit many walls, a lot of institutions that support and help non-disabled members of our society through this time had no idea about how to support and help disabled people that have support workers in their home. Fortunately, after two days of worrying, results came and she didn’t have Covid-19, but her case showed yet again how we fail disabled people again and again. (1)
The news from the last seven days is very disheartening, and shows that we have a lot to do when it comes to equal rights in all levels of our society in Iceland. Hopefully we will continue to strive to do better, and hopefully people in Iceland will keep pressuring our government, our lawmakers and everyone else that holds a position of power to do better.