In one south-Asian nation, a wheelchair-bound woman with cerebral palsy was recently married to a very handsome young man. Many people wondered, “why?” as he so attractive and could have married anyone. Turns out, he wanted one of her kidneys for his brother… In another country, teenage girls in an institution-based program have been sterilized, so that when the male nurses and aides at night “used” them, they wouldn’t get pregnant. Half of all disabled people are abused, physically, sexually, or emotionally. The good news is that on 30 March 2007, the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities opened for signatures and 80 member nations signed the Treaty on the very first day!!!
The disabled currently represent ten percent of the world’s population, with 80% or more living in developing countries, and many of the disabled live in poverty. So the UN’s Convention on disability rights hopes to safeguard and advance basic rights and human dignity to the world’s 650 million disabled people, with the ultimate aim to improve their social life and development on an equal basis with others in the society where they live.
The 50-article Convention goes into great detail the rights of persons with disabilities. It covers, among others, civil and political rights, accessibility, participation and inclusion, the right to education, health, work and employment and social protection. Importantly, the Convention recognizes that a change of attitude in society is necessary if persons with disabilities are to achieve equal status. The text is available on line.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was the most rapidly agreed-to human rights treaty in the history of international law, and the first human rights treaty of the 21st century, said U.N. human rights chief Louise Arbour. It went from dream to reality in less than 3 years. 80 countries signed on the first day, (click here for the entire list of member nations who have signed), and Jamaica ratified it as well. It will enter into force 30 days after only 19 more countries ratify it -- hopefully by next year!
Countries that ratify the treaty agree to enact laws and other measures to improve disability rights, and also abolish legislation, customs and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities. I don’t live in the USA, so I don’t know all the in’s and out’s and why’s that the USA has not signed this. I do know that the USA already has many laws regarding the rights of the disabled (Americans with Disabilities Act, etc). And I believe that this Convention is aimed at bringing out more awareness of the rights of the disabled, especially for developing nations, as that is where most of the disabled live. So why has the USA not signed it? Many countries still do look up to the USA (though, not all). ☺
An interesting side note is that the UN also recognizes that the website on the Convention must be accessible to all people. They are already taking steps that they hope will allow for anyone and everyone to find the information they need. The UN is trying to design their website so that those who are visually-impaired may use it, and they are working to make the Internet more accessible, especially for people with disabilities.
"The existing human rights system was meant to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, but the existing standards and mechanisms have in fact failed to provide adequate protection to the specific cases of persons with disabilities. It is clearly time for the UN to remedy this shortcoming."
-- United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Louise Arbour
My hope is that people with disabilities, families, YOU, and everyone will do everything they can to campaign for member states of the UN to sign and ratify the Convention. We need to publicize and promote the existence of this new historic Treaty as a legally binding instrument, one which will empower people with disabilities, help remove the physical and social barriers they face, and guarantee freedom from exploitation and abuse.
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