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January 18, 2020

Campaign groups, activists welcome Disability Act

Lahore

January 18, 2020

Islamabad

Campaign groups and civil society organisations working on disability rights in Pakistan have welcomed the new law titled ‘The ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2020,’ which will make it illegal to discriminate or exclude individuals on the basis of disability.

The new Disability Rights Act, approved on January 10, would, for the first time, provide a comprehensive legal framework to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities in Pakistan. \

Various organizations played roles in developing the draft Bill. In this regard, STEP, CBM, Sight-savers, CBID Network, CHEF International, Milestone, UN Agencies like WHO and many other DPOs were actively involved in advocacy and drafting of the Bill. Various consultations were held across the country for finalizing the draft bill before presenting it to Ministry of Human Rights. Last year in December, more than 5,200 Pakistanis signed a petition that was handed to parliament. The petition was part of the Equal World campaign, launched in Pakistan by Sightsavers, the National Forum of Women with Disabilities and the Community Based Development Network (CBIDN).

Finally, on 10th January, 2020, the National Assembly passed the Act that is aligned with sustainable development goals and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Act outlaws discrimination on the basis of disability and calls for equal treatment of all. It says freedom of movement will be ensured for everyone and that an environment will be created so that persons with disabilities can live with freedom, self-control, choice and self-determination in everyday life.

The legislation says that quality mobility aids and assistive technology will be provided at affordable prices. No person or institution will be able to discriminate against persons with disabilities.

The bill says persons with disabilities will be offered equal rights to access to educational institutions, special education institutions will be established and the government will provide free education to persons with disabilities.

“The introduction of this law represents a historic step for our country and we thank the government for making this happen”, says Munazza Gilliani, Sightsavers’ Country Director. “Every day thousands of people are excluded from public life simply because they have a disability. This new law will allow us to challenge incidents involving this kind of discrimination through the legal system. It gives individuals legal recourse in all areas of life including education, employment and healthcare,” she said.

“This Act is the hope for millions of persons with disabilities in Pakistan and now a big challenge is the implementation of the Act. The persons with disabilities are strong to force implementation of law, however at the same time, the government should design a mechanism in which person with disabilities and their organizations are involved in implementation of the law,” said Atif Shiekh, President Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP), an organization that played a key role in advocacy and drafting of the disability rights bill.

“We thank the government for taking action on this issue and look forward to working with them to ensure its fullest realization,” says Asim Zafar, Secretariat Coordinator of the Community Based Inclusion Development Network (CBID-N).

United Nations estimates that there are more than 650 million persons in the world with disabilities. The majority of such persons live in under-developed countries. It is feared that their number would increase rapidly due to the break out of wars, terrorist attacks and increasing vulnerability to natural calamities.

The UN declared 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Persons to awaken awareness among the member countries regarding the rights of disabled persons.