Friday, 5 August 2011

Provisions for Persons with Disabilities (PwD)

Act in force now: Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.  The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is the nodal ministry for this issue. Although this Act provided the framework for rights and provisions for PwD, it has many lacunae, which GOI seeks to address. It set up a committee under Dr. Sudha Kaul to make recommendations, which were submitted in June 2011.

In 2007 India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which provided a new paradigm for thinking about and acting for PwD. The UNCRPD recognizes that disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Whereas, the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 has provided for an impairment based exhaustive definition of disability. Consequently, people with impairments not expressly mentioned in the Act have often been denied the rights and entitlements recognized in the Act. 

Therefore GOI has decided to bring the existing provisions for PwD in harmony with the Convention, and a new Bill has been drafted. Its salient features are:
1.    Guarantees equality and non-discrimination to all persons with disabilities; 
a.    That PwD are an integral part of human diversity, enriching society with their vision, experience and creativity.
2.    Recognizes legal capacity of all persons with disabilities and make provision for support where required to exercise such legal capacity. [Previously the Constitution adopted an attitude towards PwD as ‘recipients of charity’. The Bill seeks recognition of PwD as full citizens by the Constitution, who cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of disability].
3.    Recognizes the multiple and aggravated discrimination faced by women with disabilities and induct a gendered understanding in both the rights and the programmatic interventions;     
4.    Recognize the special vulnerabilities of children with disabilities and ensure that they are treated on an equal basis with other children; 
5.    Mandate proactive interventions for persons with disabilities who are elderly, confined to their homes,  abandoned and segregated or living in institutions and also those who need high support; 
6.    Establish  National and State Disability Rights Authorities which would
a.    formulate policy and law,
b.    promote active participation of PwD,
c.    dismantle structural discrimination existing against PwD
d.    enforce observance of regulations promulgated under this Act; 
7.    Specify civil and criminal sanctions for wrongful acts and omissions
8.    Simultaneous amendment of other related acts, like the National Trust Act (concerned with the welfare of people with autism, cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities), the Rehabilitation Council of India Act (regulates the training of rehabilitation professionals in the disability sector), Mental Health Act, to reflect the spirit and provisions of the UNCRPD, and avoid conflicting and counter-productive legislations.
9.    Provides a system of joint decision-making which operates on mutual understanding and trust between the guardian and the person with disability.
10.  Persons with disabilities, particularly women and children with disabilities, shall have the right to retain their fertility

Summarised from:
1.     Report of the Sudha Kaul Committee on the ‘Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill’, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

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