Executive Summary

Bangladesh and CRPD Ratification: On 13 December 2006, the United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD),the first human rights treaty advocating for the rights of disabled persons. Bangladesh became a signatory and ratifying state party to the CRPD on 9 May, 2007 and 30 November, 2007 respectively[1]. Bangladesh is required to submit an initial report describing the state of implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities within two years, on or before May 2010 (Article 35, CRPD) but has not done so to date.

Prior to ratification, the only national law dealing with disability issues was the Bangladesh Persons with Disability Welfare Act, 2001. Policies included the National Policy on Disability 1995 and the National Action Plan on Disability 2006 [1]. Long term Civil Society movements and campaign by DPOs and Human Rights Activists and finally the status of Bangladesh as a signatory to the UNCRPD enabled a major shift in paradigm from a welfare based approach to a right based approach and resulted in the enactment of the Rights and Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act 2013 which has given new hope to the situation of persons with disabilities as the provisions of the Act not only established the rights of the disabled to protect their dignity, but also ensured their full participation in social and state activities removing all forms of discrimination.

Concerns however remain about its ambit

Firstly, it is unclear whether the Act prevails over other laws that affect persons with disabilities. For instance, the Labour Act 2006 of Bangladesh states that any worker who becomes disabled due to a workplace injury will be terminated from work, although entitled to compensation. This conflicts with the for the Act, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for all employees with disabilities.

Secondly, Sections 31 and 36 of the Act (which provides for registration and provision of identity documents to all persons with disabilities and provides them with a legal remedy when being discriminated),) are not in force until so notified by publication by an official gazette ( Section 1). Without this publication, disabled persons will have no remedy when facing discrimination.

Thirdly, none of the Committees empowered under the Act for ensuring implementation of government decisions and directions on disabled people ( Sections 17, 19, 21, 23 and 24) – such as the Jatiyo Shomonnoy Committee [National Coordination Committee], National Executive Committee, Zilla, Upazilla and Shohor Committee [District, Upazilla and Town Committees)) have yet been established.

Preparation of this Report: A coalition led by a disabled people’s organization, the National Grassroots Disability Organization (NGDO) along with National Council of Disabled Women (NCDW), and the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) worked on a report analyzing the status of the implementation of the CRPD in Bangladesh and seeking to advocate for the advancement of the PWDs of Bangladesh [2].

Disability – based discrimination has its adverse impact on the rights to education, employment, health, housing, transport, cultural life and affects access to public places and services, as well as to justice. Environmental and attitudinal barriers and accessibility issues are the key challenges to establishing the rights for the disabled. Changes in the understanding of disability have resulted in the adoption of new international standards to comply with the CRPD. This provides for full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the society focusing on overcoming social, political or attitudinal barriers, rather than on ‘fixing’ the disability. This change involved a shift from a welfare approach to a rights based approach when it came to dealing with disability.

Articles of the UNCRPD, namely Articles 6, 9, 13, 16, 24, 25, 27 and 29 dealing with the rights of disabled women, education, employment, health, accessibility and political participation have been discussed in the report. Each chapter begins by setting out the relevant the UNCRPD article followed by a discussion on the related national laws along with key findings and recommendations made through a series of consultations held across Bangladesh. The consultations were held in seven districts namely Dhaka, Faridpur, Rangpur, Kushtia, Sylhet, Bogra and Coxs’ Bazar by holding seven focus group discussions interviews and by conduction a structured questionnaire based survey of respondents from 14 categories ( DPOs, CSOs, PWDs, and so on) [3] carried out in the same seven districts and two national consultation meetings with relevant stakeholders including experts on disability issues.

Recommendations in each sections have varied according to the situation analysis under each heading and one of the most common recommendation that have come up almost in every section is the need for an implementation of all of the provisions of the 2013 Act. Factors responsible for non-implementation of the 2013 Act included the general lack of awareness among persons with disabilities, stakeholders and duty bearers about the rights established under each of the Sections and Schedule of the Act.

Report Findings:

Accessibility: The report identifies various barriers to accessibility of persons with disabilities, affecting their freedom and mobility to use transport, mobile/internet services and avail various services re healthcare and technological (mobile and internet) and other benefits . Our survey results demonstrate that 50% of respondents with disabilities stated that transport was not disabled friendly while 29% said buses and trains lack features for easy /wheelchair access making it impossible for PWDs to use such facilities. Also in practice, no reasonable accommodation is made for persons with disabilities to facilitate their accessibility.

Access to Justice: Persons with disabilities face a myriad of hurdles whilst seeking justice ranging from them having to face physical barriers (inaccessibility to police stations, court premises and other government institutions) to other problems that exist related to giving evidence, availing legal services and discriminatory provisions contained in personal laws that deny inheritance rights to persons with intellectual disabilities.

Rights of Disabled Women: The main concerns are related to lack of financial independence and their right to live in a safe and secure environment. Only 10 % of the respondents said that they had access to some kind of loans from the bank. Discrimination came up as an issue where 52% of the respondents surveyed felt that women and children faced discrimination due to their gender and disability.. Women with disabilities were reported to be [4] particularly vulnerable to violence and injustice. Their own lack of knowledge coupled with negative societal attitudes and negligent and insensitive attitudes of the police force or court officials were cited as barriers to them availing justice.

Freedom from Exploitation, Violence And Abuse:81 % of the surveyed respondents said that the rate of child marriages was higher within girls with disabilities. 62 % of the respondents said that PWDs facing exploitation, violence and torture opt to settle the dispute through Shalish (a form of local level mediation). 50% of the surveyed respondents felt that there were no counselling services available to PWDs facing exploitation, violence and torture.

Right to education: 41 % of our respondents said that there was a lack of disabled friendly educational equipment in schools. 18 % of the respondents said that disabled school children were denied admission in schools.

Right to Health: 94 % of the respondents said that their family homes did not have a disabled friendly washroom/toilet and only 6 % of the respondents said that PWDs had access to an adapted washroom/toilet in their family homes. Public health centers, such as Upazila Health Complexes and district general hospitals, remain inaccessible to PWDs. 52 % of the respondents said that government hospitals under the Ministry of Welfare do not provide medicine or other treatments for free for people with disabilities although the Ministry has issued rules stating that this should be the case.

Right to Work and Employment: PWDs are discriminated in relation to appointment, salaryand promotions. 49 % of the respondents surveyed said that PWDs could not get jobs due to their disability and 72 % of the surveyed respondents said that PWDs do not get paid the same wages as non-disabled workers. Employees with disabilities commonly face bullying, harassment and misbehavior at work and accessibility in workplaces was cited as an issue. 61% of those surveyed said that workplaces were not accessible for PWDs and 79% said that PWDs do not have the opportunity to work from home using internet, e-communication facilities as an alternative to going to work.

Right to Political and Public Life: 76% of those surveyed said that PWDs cannot take part in the whole election process. 44% of the respondents have said that the voting centers are inaccessible. Physical inaccessibility was attributed to lack of ramps in the voting centers and polls being located on the second or third floor and the lack of a separate queue for PWDs forcing them to wait in the line for hours to cast their vote. Article 122 (2) (c) of the Constitution provides that “A person shall be …delimited for the purpose of election to the Parliament, if he (c) does not stand declared by a competent court to be of unsound mind.”

Recommendations

Rights and Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act 2013:

State:

  1. Amend Section 1 of the 2013 or initiate an official publication of a gazette notifying that the 2013 Act prevails over any other laws affecting persons with disabilities.
  2. Issue an official gazette to activate the rights of persons with disabilities under Section 31 and 36.
  3. Initiate the prompt establishment of the Committees under the Act.

Accessibility:

State:

  1. Implement Section 34 2013 Act to overcome physical barriers and issue a government order designating RAJUK, respective Unnayan Kartipakkha (Development Authority) of all other Municipality Corporations and the Code Enforcing Agency (Authority) for enforcement of the National Building and Construction Codes.
  2. Provide ‘Reasonable accommodation’ under Section 2(14) of the 2013 Act in the light of Article 2 of the CRPD that encapsulates reach, entry, circulation and use.

BRTA (Bangladesh Road Transport Authority):

  1. Issue a circular necessitating that all drivers/conductors in public transport assist disabled persons to board vehicles.

MOSW to take steps to:

  1. Amend Section 14 of the Copyright Act 2000 to include an exemption clause for printing of all books, publications etc in an accessible format (braille, audio etc) for PWDs.
  1. Implement guidelines in the RTI Act 2009 and the National ICT Policy 2009 to ensure accessibility of information and make IT policies disability inclusive.
  2. Increase amount allocated in the Service Innovation Fund (SIF) under the Government’s Access to Information Programme to enable State-led technological advancements to make information and communication accessible for PWDs.
  3. Develop institutes for development and training on sign language for trainers, interpreters and teachers pursuant to Articles 9 (2) (e) (g) (h), and 21(b).

Access to Justice:

State

  1. Play a stronger role to protect victims and witnesses, ensure participation of disabled people in trials.
  2. Implement the Jatiyo Ain Shahayota Nitimala, 2000 enabling PWDs to have access to free legal aid and services.
  3. Protect Inheritance Rights by amending Section 1 of the 2013 Disability Rights Act and stating that it overrides any other laws, to prevent PWDs (especially those with intellectual disabilities) from being denied inheritance rights through the application of discriminatory personal laws.

State/CSO/NGOs/DPOs

  1. Conduct national level public awareness activities about disabled people’s rights to access to justice (especially on Legal Aid Act 2000; offences and punishment under the Penal Code, the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2010) and the scope for their use by all including PWDs.

Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs to:

  1. Dispose of cases involving persons with disabilities quicker by implementing the various provisions related to summon, adjournment etc contained in the Criminal Procedural Rules and the Code of Civil Procedure of Bangladesh.
  2. Build capacity of justice sector officials by incorporating disability issues in the training module for police, prison officials etc and in the Bar Council’s ‘Canons of Professional Conduct and Etiquette’ for practicing lawyers and implement rules and guidelines set out in the Bench book for Judges and Magistrates.

Rights of Disabled Women:

State:

  1. Maintain official statistics on literacy, employed disabled women, health related data to gauge the extent of input required to improve the life of PWDs.
  2. Implement Schedule 12 of the 2013 Act to enable better treatment of women and girls with disabilities in the justice system (especially victims of domestic violence) in the Victim Support Centers/Police Stations/ Courtrooms.
  3. Reform existing personal laws and the discriminatory provisions contained therein especially the ones related to financial entitlements of PWDs.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare:

  1. Disseminate information related to reproductive and sexual health of disabled women. The National Health Policies under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare must include disabled women in the State led mainstream health development projects.

Ministry of Social Welfare:

  1. Benefits and facilities provided under the National Policy must be monitored so that it reaches disabled women in the community level and the budget for the Social Safety Net Programme needs incremental change as it currently pays out a minimal monthly amount to persons with disabilities.

Freedom from Violence, Exploitation and Torture:

State:

  1. Implement existing laws and address problems related to child marriage, dowry etc by implementing the Dowry Prevention Act, 1980 and thereby prevent the taking of dowry in marriages and implement the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961. Implementation of the Majority Act, 1857 and The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 is also required to prevent child marriages.
  2. Establish more DNA labs (for evidence related to disabled victims of rape).
  3. Implement the Legal Aid Services Act 2000 and the Jatiyo Ain Shahayota Nitimala, 2000 and adopt rules to prevent imposition of extra-legal penalties on PWDs through shalish (traditional dispute resolution).
  4. Amend Section 118 of the Evidence Act, 1872 as it currently prevents persons with intellectual diseases from giving evidence. Implementation of Schedule 12 of the Disability Rights Act will enable such PWDs to present their evidence in a more disabled friendly court environment.

Right to Health:

State:

  1. Engage audio and use of Braille in hospitals and where necessary engage a sign language interpreter.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in Collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare

  1. Monitor access of poor patients with disabilities to free healthcare.
  2. Provide specialized training to doctors, hospital employees, ward boys, employees and nurses on treating people with disabilities to build empathetic behaviour and positive attitudes.

State/CSOs/NGOs/DPOs

  1. To undertake extensive awareness programmes about:
  • Extra care to be taken to prevent disability at birth and in the event of an accident (especially a spinal cord injury) among medical professionals.
  • The existence of district health centers and entitlements of PWDs under national policies.
  • Disseminate information on nutrition, health risks, diseases and preventive behaviors among disabled people and of their right to access health care services.

Right to Education:

Ministry of Social Welfare in collaboration with the Ministry of Education

  1. Ensure that PWDs are beneficiaries of mainstream developments in education.
  2. Remove physical barriers in schools, universities and other educational institutions.
  3. Increase budget allocation for disabled students to enable print and dissemination of accessible educational materials (audio and video),
  4. Relax the age limit for admission of adult students with disabilities into institutes offering higher education, increase exam duration for examinees with disabilities by one hour, and more for students with cerebral palsy.
  5. Include disability issues in the training curriculum and thereby provide training to teachers, academics and employees of educational institutions on needs of disabled students.

Work and employment:

State:

  1. Amendment of Section 21 of the Labour Act 2006 applying to workers who become disabled due to workplace injuries to:
  • Increase compensation package for such workers.
  • Rehabilitate them through training adapted to their capability or
  • Provide alternative employment for them.
  1. Amend Schedule III of the BCS and JSC rules to remove discrimination related to employment of PWDs in the public sector and in the judiciary.
  2. Increase employment opportunities for disabled people through :
  • Free/ subsidized training (technical and vocational) in government and private sector organizations.
  • Access to loans on easy terms through PKSF, SME Foundation state etc and private owned banks to facilitate small business /entrepreneurship among PWDs.

Right to Political and Public Life:

State:

  1. Amendment of Art. 122 of the Constitution to allow persons with intellectual disabilities to vote.
  2. Amendment of Art. 65 (3) of the Constitution to include a certain number of seats to be reserved for people with disabilities.

Election Commission under the Ministry of Planning:

  1. Record statistics on the number of disabled people voting in every general election
  2. Accuracy of data to be maintained on the nature of disability in National ID cards and the voter registration form.

 

http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-15&chapter=4&lang=en
http://www.askbd.org/hr_report2008/21_DISABILITY.pdf
http://www.askbd.org/hr_report2008/21_DISABILITY.pdf
Please see Annex for list of respondents
Please see Annex for Consolidated Report on FGDs

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