Persons with Disability (PWDs) are still awaiting government to honour its promise to review the country’s Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) to ensure it is compatible with United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
The expected amendment, according to the PWDs, is an international requirement and Ghana as a party to the UNCRPD will suffer a dented international image by signing and ratifying an international instrument only to violate its provision.
They observe that it has been over a year since government promised to amend the Act and yet nothing has been done as per their enquiries.
In her address at the 68th UN General Assembly in September 2013, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, told the august gathering, “Government is reviewing provisions of Persons with Disability Act 715 to realign it with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
Nana Lithur explained that the realignment was to harmonise Ghana’s obligations under both local and International Law, adding that “a Legislative Instrument to promote the effective implementation of the Act has subsequently been drafted.”
That statement by the Minister at such a high-level meeting, according to the PWDs, “was good news and heart-warming information for persons with disability and organizations of Persons with Disability in the country who found the Act to be woefully inadequate, and skewed, with ambiguous and discretionary provisions. Unfortunately, PWDs’ hope and expectations have been short lived.”
The Advocacy Officer of the Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD), Mr Isaac Tuggun, indicated that though the Federation had produced and submitted a gap analysis report to the government through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection as its contribution to fast-track the review process of the Act, nothing has been done about the anticipated review a year on.
Mr Tuggun said:“From our layman point of view, an appropriate Legislative Instrument for the effective implementation of an Act can be best drafted after the Act has been reviewed and not while the Act is still being reviewed.”
The Persons with Disability Act 715 came into effect in 2006. It preceded the UNCRPD which Ghana voluntarily signed in 2007 and ratified in 2012. The UNCRPD is now part of the Ghana’s body of legislations. In article 4(b) of the General Obligations, the UNCRPD enjoins state parties to harmonise their domestic legislations with the convention.
The Advocacy Officer said the harmonisation would eliminate the difficulties and confusion arising in the application of the two pro-disability legislations, with the same objectives, but which differ greatly from each other in context, enjoinment, and scope.
“For instance, though disability is an evolving concept, Act 715 has a close definition of a person with disability, while the UNCRPD has an open definition to permit the inclusion of emerging categories of disability. UNCRPD recognizes the different needs of women and children with disability and thus provides for them separately. Act 715 lumped women, children, and men together as persons with disability who have common challenges and common need,” he added.
The UNCRPD further provided for political participation and special needs for PWDs in national disaster management. “Act 715, is silent on these issues. Act 715 has cursory provisions some of which are ambiguous while the UNCRPD has detailed and clear provisions,” he said.
With regard to education, Mr Tuggun explicated that the UNCRPD promotes inclusive education at all levels, while Act 715 prescribes the designation of schools or institutions in each region to provide facilities and equipment to enable PWDs to participate in education, thus limiting the opportunities of PWDs to participate in education. That, according to him, is discriminatory.
He said Health care and employment provisions in Act 715 also suffered similar limitations. While the UNCRPD enjoins close consultation and active involvement of PWDs in decision-making processes, Act 715 prescribes nothing on the matter.
“GFD is, therefore, calling on all relevant stakeholders to take keen interest in the promise by government to review Act 715 so that together we create the right legal environment in the disability domain.”