Shaping Public Policy

Dr. Christina Sisti:

Photo by Emmad Mazhari on Unsplash

“Society establishes the means of categorizing persons and the complement of attributes felt to be ordinary and natural for members of these categories.” Erving Goffman

For those in marginalized societal groups to be accepted into society, the attitude or view of those within marginalized groups must be put in perspective to the society in which a person lives. Society often views those in marginalized populations as outsiders and treats them as such.

Thomas sees societal perceptions and treatments of marginalized populations within cross-cultural settings as a kaleidoscope of varying hues that reflect tolerance, hatred, love, fear, awe, reverence and revulsion.1 “The most consistent feature in the treatment of persons with disabilities in most societies is the fact that they are categorized as “deviants rather than inmates by the society.”2

Poverty is a cause of socioeconomic disparities, but the cause of poverty is pervasive and linked to discrimination. Those in vulnerable populations learn early on that society is not built upon the idea of encompassing all but instead of expecting those who are different to adapt to society.

Children in marginalized populations are adaptive and often understand the world was not built to help them move with ease, but they must instead create their pathway in the world.

“We live in the state and society; we belong to a social circle which jostles against its members and is jostled by them; we feel the social pressure from all sides, and we react to it with all our might; we experience a restraint to our free activities, and we struggle to remove it; we require the services of other [people] which we cannot do without; we pursue our own interests and struggle for the interests of other social groups, which are also our interests. In short, we move in a world which we do not control, but which controls us, which is not directed toward us and adapted to us, but toward which we must direct and adapt ourselves”3

A society which has achieved Rawls Theory of Distributive Justice by elevating those who are at a disadvantage to a place in society where they can be productive, enjoy economic equality and participate in social organizations is a society which has erased barriers. Beauchamp and Childress note:

One hypothesis is that virtually all abilities and disabilities are functions of what Rawls calls the natural lottery and the social lottery. “Natural lottery “refers to the distribution of advantageous genetic properties, and “social lottery” refers to the distribution of assets or deficits through the family property, school systems, government agencies, and the like.” 4

For society to address the inequities which come about through either lottery, it is then society’s responsibility to allow those who are marginalized the fair opportunity which is afforded to those in the majority. If people lack a decent home, satisfactory income, good health, meaningful employment, and freedom from discrimination and abuse they are unlikely to view or be viewed as an asset to their neighborhoods.5

We must look to our biases and perceptions regarding marginalized groups and if we find them lacking adjust them to include marginalized populations. It isn’t until we address this discrepancy inequality that we will begin to address the issues of discrimination and the value of those in marginalized groups.

When one falls into stigmatized category or possesses an undesirable attribute, those not of this category tend to devalue the stigmatized individual, to practice the variation of discrimination, and to impute a wide range of imperfection on the basis of the original one, and at the same time to impute some desirable but undesirable attributes often of the supernatural cast, such as sixth sense or understanding to the stigmatized individual.1

To not be viewed as a part of society also leaves those within marginalized groups vulnerable to society’s values. Society views difference not regarding the person or the barriers the person faces from society but regarding parts. If a society does not place importance on them, they are potentially at risk of becoming victims of public policies which view them as not “normal.”

The social model implies that practices such as eugenics are founded on social values and a prejudiced understanding of the potential and the value of those labeled disabled. “Over 200,000 disabled people were the first victims of the Holocaust. 5


1 Ishola-Esan, Helen domu (2016). Religion and Theology: African Perspectives.  Journal of Disability and Religion20,(1-2), 103-118.

2 MunyiChomba Wa ( 2012). Perceptions Towards Disability: A Historical Perspective.  Disabilities Studies Quarterly, 32(2).

3 Gumplowicz, Ludwig. (1963). Outlines of Sociology. (pp. 6). (2nd ed). New York, NY: Paine-Whitman.

4 Beauchamp, Tom L. & Childress, James F. (2009). Principles of Biomedical Ethics. (6th ed.). New York, N.Y. Oxford University Press.

5 Batesa, Peter & Davis, Fabian A. (2004, May). Social capital, social inclusion, and services for people with learning disabilities.  Disability & Societyvol 19:3.

This article is extracted from the Research paper titled ‘America’s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations’  in Chapter 4 of the Safety Report by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation ‘Safety First for Girls’.


The Safety Report by SAFIGI is a two-fold Open research on ‘Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.’ The first part of the Safety Report is a Research Paper. The second part is a detailed Data Analysis.

The Safety Report Research paper is titled: ‘Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.’ The paper starts with an abstract before focusing on subjects in the key regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. A total of 7 Research papers make up the safety Report (sans the introduction and conclusion), including:


  • The psychological effect of mass sexual harassment on girls in Egypt (P.24) by Heba Elasiouty.
  • Safety concerns in relation to social media: Growing up female in an increasingly digital world (P.45) by Karin Temperley.
  • Psychosocial challenges faced by parents raising children with physical disabilities in Oshana region (P.68) by Misumbi Shikaputo.
  • Gender-based violence and subsequent safety challenges experienced by Rohingya women (P.119) by Shucheesmita Simonti.
  • LGBT policies and overall safety in Brazil (P.141) by Alinne Lopes Gomes.
  • Silent voices‘: Violence against the female body as consequence of machismo culture (P.177)  by Steffica Warwick.
  • America‘s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations (P.208) by Dr. Christina Sisti.

The Safety Report Data Analysis is titled: ‘Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls. Results and Outcomes based on Zambia, Egypt, USA, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Namibia.

SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a volunteer-based and youth led NGO registered in Zambia, implemented the Safety Report in order to understand the multifaceted concept of safety and how it applies to the female gender in diverse settings. And therefore, further prove safety is intrinsic, and that vices in society stem from an intimate level of the human being before its manifestation. This way, when we create safety solutions, whether it be in a developing nation, conflict zone, refugee camp, or patriarchal society, the problem is resolved from a deeply rooted cause. Such that, we treat the disease itself and not mere symptoms.

This study is as a result of collaborative effort pursued in the spirit of volunteerism via UN Online Volunteers.

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