Implement laws that protect PWDs
Posted Tuesday, October 1 2013 at 01:00
There is need to stimulate debate on how to do things differently and secure a safe and prosperous future for the Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) and vulnerable people in Uganda. PWDs are disadvantaged in many ways.
They have limited or no access to most buildings because many buildings in this country do not have facilities such as ramps and lifts. The existing lifts do not have talking devices to enable the blind to access information. Roads do not have facilities for PWDs.
Some PWDs do not access information provided by the media; others face challenges in accessing health services.
Access to health is a vital factor for PWDs as they are more prone to suffer from illnesses. There are legal frameworks that provide for the right to health for PWDs.
They include: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
These provisions are under the international commitments to human rights, including the right to health. One of the core principles of international law on accessibility to health services is that of non-discrimination, especially for “the most vulnerable or marginalised sections of the population”.
Uganda has enough legislation to protect PWDs but these laws are not effectively implemented. The 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda provides, among its social and economic objectives, that the State shall ensure that all Ugandans enjoy rights and opportunities and access to education, health services, clean and safe water, work, decent shelter, adequate clothing and food, security, pension and retirement benefits. These provisions are largely symbolic; they are a formal statement of the government’s intention to protect the health of its citizens but do not obligate the government to do so.
The Persons With Disability Act recognises the right of Persons With Disabilities to enjoy the same rights with other members of the public in all health institutions, including general medical care. The National Council for Disability Act 2003 seeks to provide for establishment of a National Council for Disability, its composition, functions and administration for the promotion of the rights of PWDs set out in international conventions and legal instruments.
The national policy on disability, which was adopted by the government in 2006, defines the rights of PWDs. It is aimed at promoting equal opportunities for enhanced empowerment, participation and protection of rights of PWDs irrespective of gender, age and type of disability. The policy also takes note of the fact that due to their vulnerability, PWDs have inadequate access to services, information, resources as well as limited participation in the development process.
As seen above, we have adequate legislation that provides for the rights of PWDs. However, failure to enforce these laws has resulted into the vicious cycle of poverty and poor health and marginalisation of PWDs. These gaps must be addressed as a matter of urgency.