A Summary Report of the Review Session held on 19th and 20thFebruary in Geneva.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently reviewed the first periodic report of Nepal last February 19 and 20 at the United Nations (UN) Office in Geneva.
Representing the government in the review were Naindra Prasad Upadhaya, Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, and Mohna Ansari, Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal along with some other representatives from Ministry of Law and Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs. The National Federation of the Disabled – Nepal (NFDN), the pioneer organization for disability rights in the country, led the delegation of 40 representatives from different Disabled Peoples’ Organizations (DPOs), and other disability rights organizations.
Two years deferred from its deadline, the government submitted its country report to the Committee in 2014. Last year, NFDN, on behalf of all persons with disabilities of Nepal, submitted a civil society report (shadow report) highlighting Nepal’s status of implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
The Committee acknowledged the improvements made since Nepal’s ratification of the UNCRPD and its Optional Protocol in 2010. One of these laudable developments was the passage of the Disability Rights Act last year, which replaced the antiquated Disabled Persons Welfare Act of 1982. The new law signifies Nepal’s commitment to addressing disability-related issues using the rights-based model rather than welfare or charity-based approaches.
Questions of the Committee
The Committee questioned the delegation’s usage of the acronym ‘PwD’ frequently, and the government’s performance in mainstreaming disability issues in guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities. The government’s quota system in employing persons with intellectual or multiple disabilities in the private sector was scrutinized along with the government’s efforts to guarantee sexual and reproductive rights to women with disabilities and tackle gender-based violence. Dissemination and availability of public information, including materials on disaster risk reduction (DRR), in sign language and braille were brought up in discussion during the meetings. In the health sector, the Committee interrogated the delegation about the access of persons with disabilities to health services, facilities along with the health related physical infrastructure. Cases of forced medical treatment of persons with disabilities were highlighted during the deliberations.
The delegation was requested to elaborate further on the involvement of DPOs in the formulation of laws and policies. Despite the government’s profound policies for persons with disabilities, loopholes were detected in its implementation across various government agencies through disability trainings. They quizzed the delegation on the government’s policies in safeguarding the rights of children with disabilities. One Committee member asked whether delegation about the Disability Rights Act’s mention of the right to inclusive education as an enforceable right. Other pressing issues examined by the Committee was the presence of sign language interpretation in courts and pro bono lawyers for persons with disabilities.
Replies of the delegation
The delegation asserted its enduring and unwavering support towards uplifting the condition of persons with disabilities. In response to a question raised by the Committee, the delegation stressed that inclusive education was a legally enforceable right. The government’s Mental Health Law is yet to be finalized to encompass persons with mental, intellectual, and psycho-social disabilities. Sign language is used in the media and courts and sign language trainings for public servants and government employees are being conceptualized. Likewise, the Nepalese government vowed to include persons with disabilities in current education and health policies in lieu of the UNCRPD and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The School Sector Development Program (SSDP), which aims to boost numbers of enrolment of children with disabilities in all educational levels. In relation to DRR, the government has streamlined rehabilitation and protection measures that were disability-friendly and inclusive. To ensure that persons with disabilities can claim legal remedies, the government has published a manual to expedite their access to justice.
It is stipulated under existing election laws that the government should allot accessible polling booths for persons with disabilities. Although the delegation said that election information and materials are disability-friendly, ballots are not provided in braille and other accessible formats. In the realm of employment, the delegation highlighted the government’s employment quota system for persons with disabilities, as per the Civil Service Act. Amid shortcomings in implementation and monitoring, the delegation and the Committee praised the government’s continuing mandate to provide equal protection and recognition for persons with disabilities.
Common Presentation of NFDN
While NFDN and other groups commend the government for granting civil and political rights to persons with disabilities though the Disability Rights Act, crucial and alarming lapses were identified during the dialogues. Weak implementation of measures aimed at eradicating discrimination on the basis of disability as detrimental practices and stereotypes prevail until today. Current laws and policies fail to amplify intersectionality components, such as specific initiatives for indigenous peoples, dalits, and women with disabilities. In fact, the Disability Rights Act lacked concrete definitions of hard of hearing and deaf-blindness and provisions related to psychosocial and indigenous person with disabilities.
While persons with physical disabilities are gradually being integrated into the society, persons with multiple, intellectual, psychosocial, and mental disabilities face more stringent barriers. They have little or no access to legal services, social protection services, and livelihood programs. Meanwhile, healthcare remains costly and inaccessible to the majority of persons with disabilities in far-flung areas. There is a dire need for further adaptations in educational provisions to cater to deaf-blind and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Because a significant number of establishments don’t follow the country’s National Building Code and national accessibility standards adopted by the government, persons with disabilities encounter barriers in mobility. It is strongly recommended for the government to ensure that buildings are designed with ramps, braille buttons, and other accessibility features.
Doubly-disadvantaged in the society, women with disabilities are vulnerable to domestic abuse, rape, economic disempowerment, and workplace harassment. Their sexual and reproductive rights are not yet cemented under relevant laws.
To conclude, persons with disabilities still excluded and ostracized from their families and communities. The government has still much to do to comply with the provisions of the UNCRPD and assist persons with disabilities in fully realizing their human rights and capabilities.
(This report is prepared by NFDN with the help from Ms. Gianna Catolico. Ms Catolico is Master’s Student from Mahidol University, Thailand and is currently doing her internship at NFDN).