A concept from the 1970s that is gaining in importance today

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Discriminations are attitudes and actions that devalue a person or a group and that lead to limitations, exclusions or restrictions for cultural, legal, personal or natural reasons that are not accepted. Unfortunately, we are part of a society full of prejudices, that is, when we prejudge a situation towards something or someone out of ignorance or because of what we have learned in life without any necessary reason for this to be so, and discrimination, where physical, cultural and aesthetic differences limit individuals’ opportunities to participate and demonstrate their potential in all aspects of life.

By Andrea Zondek

Factors of discrimination include racism which challenges ethnic differences, economic inequalities, gender bias, sexual orientation or preference, disability and many other factors of discrimination which lead to isolation, ridicule, rejection and exclusion. The factors of discrimination do not act independently of each other, but intersect, leading to new systems of oppression.

Already in the 1970s, interrelated categories of discrimination began to be identified, the victims of which were women of color at the mercy of cruel repression and sexual assault, making them visible as rare and inferior objects. Intersectionality theory grew out of feminist movements made up of women of African descent who raised their voices to highlight the inferior and unequal treatment caused by interrelated factors such as gender, race and class. One of the most heard cases is that of Sara Baartman, a native of Khoikhoi ethnicity and a colored slave who was taken to Europe in the early 19th century and presented as the main attraction of the circus, was the victim of abuse sexual. , mockery and degrading treatment, so much so that after 5 years of having suffered such exploitation, she died at the age of 25 and her skeleton, brain and genitals were exhibited at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris for more than 160 years until 1974, but his remains were repatriated to his native country in the Eastern Cape (South Africa) on August 9, 2002.

The discrimination that has also been very aggressive in many countries is that generated by disability. The term disability has been heavily contested as it tends to be seen as a subtraction of skills. Furthermore, disability has been misunderstood by society and ignorance, exclusion and segregation have created social barriers that have led to many prejudices. However, it is possible to have an approach that seeks to promote a model of autonomy, where capacities, potentialities and skills are highlighted over physical, intellectual or sensory limitations, this model being the basis for being able to carry out to many labor intermediation processes.

What happens when a person with a disability faces different factors of discrimination? This is where the intersectionality model comes in, as an approach that analyzes the interrelation between the different discriminatory factors that can affect the same person in addition to their disability, race, social condition, ethnic , age and economic situation, and that it is important to stop treating them in isolation and give them more importance, as this can increase the situation of vulnerability in which the person may find themselves.

It is necessary to analyze public policies to see what other types of discriminatory factors exist at the intersection with disability that can improve, for example, the working conditions of workers. Today, reference is made only to people with disabilities with little education, as a possible double assignment in the field of work. We must take into account that many people with disabilities do not have access to rehabilitation and education, so it is unlikely that the person will discover and develop their abilities in a timely manner. Understanding intersectionality allows us to analyze the complexity of the biases we have and it will be easier to overcome our assumptions and stereotypes.


*President of the TACAL Foundation

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