Experts have urged the government to expedite the process of passing the proposed Act that would ensure the rights of people with disabilities.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was drafted recently. In its pre-election manifesto, the government had promised to formulate the law to ensure rights in line with the ‘UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, which Bangladesh had ratified in 2007.
The global conference on issues relating to people with disabilities, held in Doha last month, had also urged governments to implement the UN Convention that demands access to healthcare, education, employment and other fundamental rights for persons with disabilities.
“We are worried since we have bitter past experiences,” Jowaherul Islam Mamun, secretary general of the National Forum of Organisations Working with the Disabled (NFOWD), said on Wednesday.
“We saw at least three policies (passed earlier) at the end of the then government’s tenure. That’s why those were not put into practice,” he said at a press conference, jointly organised with Actionaid Bangladesh.
The National Policy on Disability was passed in Nov 1995 during the last cabinet meeting of the then BNP government, and thus not implemented.
Subsequently, the Bangladesh Disability Welfare Act was passed in Apr 2001 — just before the then Awami League government’s tenure got over.
Similarly, the last BNP-led four-party alliance adopted a national action plan in 2006 at the end of the government’s term.
“But on all occasions we had submitted our proposals at the beginning of their tenure,” Jowaherul said. “We want this law to be passed immediately, and implemented within this government’s tenure.”
WORKING ON NEW LAW
The government decided to enact a new law by annulling the 2001 Act in Apr 2011.
The ministry of social welfare has asked NFOWD to finalise a draft on these lines. Jowaherul said they had completed the task after meeting all stakeholders concerned. “Public opinion has been drawn from the web post of the draft on the ministry’s website,” he said.
He also said several steps are pending before the draft law is placed in Parliament. “We want it quick so that this Act does not come a cropper, like the earlier ones.”
Director of NFOWD Dr Nafeesur Rahman told bdnews24.com that the 2001 Act was charity-based but the new one will be rights-based.
Rabeya Sultana, head of Actionaid Bangladesh’s Justice for Marginalised People programme, said a fresh law is vital to guarantee a “respectable” life for people with disabilities in Bangladesh.
According to preliminary results of the latest census, 9.07 percent of the country’s 142.3 million people suffer from some form of disability.
Because of social mismanagement, Rabeya alleged, they are abused in all spheres of the society.
The Doha conference underscored the need for a ‘comprehensive’ effort and also raising awareness, so that people with disability become part of social planning.
Saima Hossain Putul, prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s daughter who spearheads disability issues in Bangladesh, had told bdnews24.com in an interview on Jan 23 in Doha that state mechanism (referring to bureaucrats) should take the disability issue ‘forward’.