SEID (Society for Education and Inclusion of the Disabled) self-advocacy group leader Shila Moni and BlueLaw's In-Country Coordinator Adv. Rejaul Karim Siddiquee joined ColoursFM host RJ Sumi for a special edition of the weekly "Ain o Amra" (Law and Us) radio program to discuss implementation of the Disability Rights and Protection Act, 2013, and the role of persons with disabilities and DPOs to raise awareness of the Act and to demand more effective action by the Bangladesh government and civil society to ensure that this important law becomes a reality.
On November 19, 2019, at Barishal Deputy Commissioner's office, Nur-e-Jannat Chandni filed the fifth Section 36 application under the Persons with Disabilities Rights and Protection Act, 2013 (DRPA) to be assisted by USAID's Expanding Participation of People with Disability (EPD) program. Chandni filed her application with assistance from Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust's (BLAST) Barishal Unit Office, after being referred by Bangladesh Protibandhi Unnayan Sangstha (BPUS), one of seven EPD-supported disabled people's organizations (DPOs). BPUS learned of Chandni's complaint through its April 18, 2019 legal aid camp, which drew 130 participants.
Chandni filed her application immediately after BPUS's successful seminar with DRPA district committee members, including the Deputy Director of Social Services and the Deputy Civil Surgeon. The Deputy Commissioner, S.M. Aziur Rahman, presided over the seminar and representatives of BPUS, BLAST, and BlueLaw International, LLP educated the committee members about their responsibilities and powers under the DRPA, including their obligation to meet quarterly. At the meeting's close, after being reminded that the district committee had last convened in April 2019, the Deputy Commissioner set the date of the next meeting for December 4, 2019, and committed to convening the committee on a quarterly basis in the future, as required by the DRPA.
On November 11, 2019, the right to reasonable accommodations in the classroom of two students in Tangail was fulfilled. Shahida Akter, an eighth grade student, and Habibur Rahman, a sixth grade student, received customized desks tailored to their physical disabilities and were seated in the front row of their classrooms so that they can more actively engage in lessons. The failure to receive accommodations as required by the Persons with Disabilities Rights and Protection Act, 2013 (DRPA) was first reported to Tangail DPOD during its July 27, 2019 legal aid camp. Following Tangail DPOD's referral, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust's (BLAST) Tangail Unit Office issued a legal notice to the students' school alerting them to the students' right under DRPA Section 16(1)(Da). Thereafter, not only did the school agree to provide customized desks, but also to install two ramps and to add a commode toilet in the bathroom, so that students using wheelchairs will have opportunities to enjoy their right to education on an equal basis with non-disabled students.
On October 3, 2019, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, Kazi Reazul Haque; and National Legal Services Organization Director and Senior District Judget, Md. Amirul Islam; and President of the National Council of Disabled Women, Nasima Akter, discuss the current state of implementation of Bangladesh's Disability Rights and Protection Act, 2013 as part of USAID's Participation of People with Disability Program. The conversation was moderated by Adv. Rejaul Karim Siddiquee, In-Country Coordinator of BlueLaw International, LLP and originally aired on Desh TV.
The third Section 36 application filed by the EPD Team with a
DRPA district committees generated Bangladesh’s first-ever decision on a Section
36 application by a DRPA district committee. The Ministry of Public
Administration had issued circular No. 05.00.0000.170.22.015.12-169 on May 28,
2012, authorizing job applicants with disabilities up to 32 years old to apply
for government posts that required applicants to be 30 years old or younger.
But when the applicant, Md. Mehedi Hassan, had attempted to apply for a job
announced in the daily Ittefaq on July 24, 2019, which was limited to
applicants 30 years old or younger, he was prevented from submitting his
application through the online application portal provided given his age,
effectively ignoring the Public Administration Ministry’s May 28, 2012
circular, which was still in force. The Kushtia DRPA district committee decided
on September 30, 2019 that Mr. Hassan’s rights recognized under DRPA Sections
16(1)(jha) and (Da) to non-discrimination in public and private sector employment
and to receive reasonable accommodations in the area of employment,
respectively. Therefore, the committee resolved to issue a letter to the
government department that posted the job announcement to request that they
take appropriate measures to remedy their failure to enforce the May 28, 2012
circular in Mr. Hassan’s favor.
On September 22, 2019, Prottasha Protibandhi Nari O Shishu Unnyan (Prottasha) presented the fourth Section 36 application generated through USAID's Expanding Participation of People with Disability (EPD) program on behalf of Md. Nur Alam, who is blind and seeking relief in a land dispute. Prottasha's Umma Kulsum, a nominated member of the Rangpur district DRPA committee, raised Mr. Alam's application at the committee's third recorded meeting on November 11, 2019. Nevertheless, the committee has taken no action on Alam's application.
The second Section 36 application supported by the EPD Team was filed in Kishoreganj and resulted in Bangladesh’s first-ever hearing on a Section 36 application by a DRPA district committee. The application was filed on July 4, 2019, with Md. Kamruzzaman Khan, Deputy Director of the District Social Services Office in Kishoreganj, and ex officio secretary of the district committee. On August, 1 2019, the Kishoreganj DRPA district committee held Bangladesh’s first reported hearing in the matter of a complaint for compensation filed pursuant to DRPA Section 36. Mr. Sarwer Morshed Chowdhury (District Commissioner of Kishoreganj) presided over the meeting. View Jugantor's report of the hearing here.
A second hearing on this matter was held on August 21, 2019, and a four-person investigation sub-committee was formed. Their investigation report was due within 30 days of the second hearing. View the Kishoreganj Journal's report of this hearing here.
The applicant, Md. Mosharaf Mia, is 18 years old and has an intellectual disability covered by the DRPA. He sought BDT 670,000 (approx. USD 8,170) in damages for rights violations relating to allegations of physical abuse. A criminal case was also registered at Tarail police station on charges of attempted murder and serious injury. The incident at the center of the application was first reported in the Kishoreganj Journal on June 6, 2019 here. The story was also reported by BanglaNews24.com and the Dhaka Tribune.
On July 23 and 24, 2019 DDRC organized a seminar for lawyers and a seminar for judges, respectively. The judges’ seminar was presided over by Chittagong District Judge Munsy Abdul Majid, who agreed that judges should pay special attention to whether persons with disabilities involved in the justice system receive adequate legal representation and reasonable accommodations in accordance with their Constitutional rights and those recognized by the DRPA. He emphasized the need for judges to take the initiative in their courtrooms to ensure that persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities’ rights are upheld in criminal proceedings. The seminar for lawyers was presided over by the district legal aid officer and Senior Assistant Judge Farhana Yeasmin and 20 DLAC panel lawyers attended.
On April 30, 2019, Tangail DPOD organized the first known full meeting of Tangail's district DRPA committee. Many of the committee members were unaware of their responsibilities as committee members. The Additional Deputy Commissioner, who chaired the meeting on behalf of the District Commissioner, an ex officio district DRPA committee member, remarked:
“You should arrange such sharing meetings with the officers frequently so that they can learn about the law. For example, today you have invited me and thus I came to know about the law for the first time. Now I have learned about our duties and powers under Section 36 and from now I will be able to call meetings and decide any complaints under Section 36 of the Act.”
Tangail DPOD’s meeting underscores one of several examples of how DPOs through both USAID’s EPD program and beyond can promote effective implementation of the DRPA at the local level.
All 7 DPO receiving small grants as part of USAID's Expanding Participation of People with Disability Program participated in Bangladesh's National Legal Aid Day rallies on April 27th to strengthen linkages with local legal aid providers and District Legal Aid Committees. It was the first time that these DPOs had actively participated in National Legal Aid Day observance activities. These events helped to raise awareness of the Disability Rights and Protection Act, 2013 among members of the legal community.