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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 24
June 16, 2007

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Human Rights Advocacy

Rights of persons with disabilities: Analysing the UN Convention

Sayeed Ahmad

On December 13, 2006,the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional protocol. This was a culmination of five years of negotiations and decades of struggle by persons with disabilities and allied advocacy organisations to achieve global recognition of disability as human rights issue. Bangladesh has signed the Convention on 9 May 2007.

Key features: The Convention described disability as an evolving concept and focused on the following dimensions:

*Disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

*Importance of mainstreaming disability issues is an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development.

*Persons with disabilities are subject to multiple or aggravated forms of discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic, indigenous or social origin, property, birth, age or other status.

The Convention recognised the importance of accessibility to the physical, social, economic and cultural environment, to health and education and to information and communication, in enabling persons with disabilities to fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Purpose: The purpose of the Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. It mentioned that, persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. (Art. 1)

Principles: The principles of the Convention have been described in Art.3 as follows:
(a) Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons;
(b) Non-discrimination;
(c) Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
(d) Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
(e) Equality of opportunity;
(f) Accessibility;
(g) Equality between men and women;
(h) Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

General obligations of State parties: Article 4 of the Convention described the general obligations of the State parties as follows-

To ensure and promote the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability, State parties will undertake:

(a) To adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognised in the Convention;

(b) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities;

(c) To take into account the protection and promotion of the human rights of persons with disabilities in all policies and programmes;

(d) To refrain from engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent with the present Convention and to ensure that public authorities and institutions act in conformity with the Convention;

(e) To take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability by any person, organisation or private enterprise;

(f) To undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities, as defined in article 2 of the Convention, which should require the minimum possible adaptation and the least cost to meet the specific needs of a person with disabilities, to promote their availability and use, and to promote universal design in the development of standards and guidelines;

(g) To undertake or promote research and development of, and to promote the availability and use of new technologies, including information and communications technologies, mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, suitable for persons with disabilities, giving priority to technologies at an affordable cost;

(h) To provide accessible information to persons with disabilities about mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, including new technologies, as well as other forms of assistance, support services and facilities;

(i) To promote the training of professionals and staff working with persons with disabilities in the rights recognised in this Convention so as to better provide the assistance and services guaranteed by those rights.

With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, each State party undertakes to take measures to the maximum of its available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international cooperation, with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation of these rights, without prejudice to those obligations contained in the Convention that are immediately applicable according to international law.

In the development and implementation of legislation and policies to implement the Convention, and in other decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, States parties shall closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organisations.

Women with disabilities: Article 6 of the Convention focused on women with disabilities. States parties recognise that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination, and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

According to article 6 (2), State parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the present Convention.

Children with disabilities: Article 7 of the Convention talked about children with disabilities. According to 7 (1), State parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children. According to 7 (2), in all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. According to 7 (3), State parties shall ensure that children with disabilities have the right to express their views freely on all matters affecting them, their views being given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity, on an equal basis with other children, and to be provided with disability and age-appropriate assistance to realise that right.

Rights and responsibility: For the protection and promotion of human rights for the persons with disability, the Convention focused on awareness-raising to foster respect for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities (Article 8), ensuring persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas (Article 9), ensuring right to life (Article 10), protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies (Article 11), equal recognition before the law (Article 12), effective access to justice (Article 13), enjoying right to liberty and security of the person (Article 14), freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 15), freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse (Article 16), protecting the integrity of the person with disability (Article 17), liberty of movement and nationality (Article 18), ensuring the equal right of all persons with disability to live independently and being included in the community (Article 19), ensuring personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities (Article 20), freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information (Article 21), respect for privacy (Article 22), respect for home and the family (Article 23), inclusive education system at all levels and life long learning (Article 24), right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of disability (Article 25), enabling persons with disabilities to attain and maintain maximum independence, full physical, mental, social and vocational ability, and full inclusion and participation in all aspects of life (Article 26), right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities (Article 27), adequate standard of living and social protection (Article 28), participation in political and public life (Article 29) and participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport (Article 30).

Implementation mechanism
For the fulfilment of the purpose and objectives, the Convention emphasised on:
*Collecting appropriate information, including statistical and research data, to enable them to formulate and implement policies to give effect to the Convention. (Article 31)
*Undertaking appropriate and effective measures in this regard, between and among States and, as appropriate, in partnership with relevant international and regional organisations and civil society, in particular organisations of persons with disabilities (Article 32)
*Creating national implementation and monitoring mechanism (Article 33).

Article 34-40 is all about the treaty body, reporting procedure and state obligation to the international mechanism.

The Convention has been opened for signature by all States and by regional integration organisations from 30 March 2007. It shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the deposit of the twentieth instrument of ratification or accession. As of 19 April 2007, 85 states have signed and only Jamaica has ratified the Convention.

Optional protocol: The Optional Protocol to the Convention recognised the competence of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals.

Conclusion: Bangladesh's early initiative to sign the convention is very much welcoming. We hope Bangladesh will also be such proactive to ratify the Convention as well as the Optional Protocol. It will be indeed a great opportunity for Bangladesh to show its commitment towards the human rights of all its citizens, specially that of the persons with disability.

The writer is Coordinator, Media and Communication Unit, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Dhaka.


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