Affirmative Action Bill must deal with all types of discrimination

BY: Daily Graphic
 Yaw Ofori-Debrah —  President of the Ghana Federation of Disability Oganisations
Yaw Ofori-Debrah — President of the Ghana Federation of Disability Oganisations

Globally, the rights of persons with disabilities have been the subject of much attention at the United Nations (UN), at the regional and national levels over a long period of time.

This awakening is informed by the open truth that there is a close connection between the limitation experienced by individuals with disabilities, the design and structure of the environments and the attitude of the general population.

In Ghana, this situation is translated into systemic discrimination that is rooted in a legal system devoid of disability. Persons with disabilities are therefore subject to a continued history of invisibility and non-participation in strategic decision-making including under-representation in positions of authority and governance.

The Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFO) and its member representative organisations of persons with disabilities, inspired and guided by the 1992 Constitution and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), are working tirelessly to remedy this anomaly; particularly to ensure that bills that do not address disability are not passed into law.

Standard practice

In accordance with standard practice, this burden moved the GFD and its member representative organisations of persons with disabilities to take a critical look at the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill, 2016, especially based on the fact that an affirmative action law was of extreme necessity to the empowerment of persons with disabilities to be active participants in the Ghanaian society.

Contrary to standard practice, the outcome of the study of the bill revealed that the bill did not address disability.

The GFD and its member representative organisations of persons with disabilities discussed the flaw with the Sector Minister; the Minister for Gender, Child and Social Protection. So the GFD assembled a 10-member technical team to solicit for input in the form of a proposed amendment to the bill.

The technical team comprised of representatives from organisations of persons with disabilities chaired by a disability rights legal consultant.

The technical team’s constructive input was guided by the principles of respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons; non-discrimination; full and effective participation and inclusion in society; respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity; equality of opportunity; accessibility; equality between men and women; respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

The GFD and its member representative organisations of persons with disabilities presented a copy of the proposed amendments to the sector minister. To secure the input of representatives of persons with disabilities throughout Ghana, the GFD held two stakeholders consultations with the northern and southern sectors of Ghana, on the proposed amendment to the Bill. This position paper is an outcome of the stakeholders’ consultation on the proposed amendment to the Bill.

Opinion

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The organisations of persons with disabilities led by the GFD and their stakeholders are of the opinion that Ghana’s initial comprehensive report on measures taken to give effect to the effective implementation of the UN CRPD and on the progress made, as obliged under Article 35(1) of the UN CRPD, is overdue.

Accordingly, with Article 36 (2) of the UN CRPD in mind, Ghana needs to examine the implementation of the UN CRPD particularly on the basis of the continuing passage of discriminatory bills into laws; such as the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill, 2016.

The organisations of persons with disabilities led by the GFD and their stakeholders acknowledge the fact that this anomaly can be rectified, notwithstanding the fact that the Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) is yet to be given the needed legal enforcement. Significantly, affirmative action remains a powerful tool in addressing inequitable representation of persons with disabilities in public office, governance and decision-making positions. It is noteworthy that disability is an evolving concept and part of the natural human diversity.

Hence, if this bill is passed into law without specifically including disability, persons with disabilities will further be marginalised in perpetuation of the historic disadvantage that persons with disability are made to endure in the Ghanaian society.

In light of this, the organisations of persons with disabilities led by the GFD and their stakeholders are appealing for a review of the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill, 2016, to include disability in its entirety.  

The request for the review of the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill, 2016; to include disability is informed by:

Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715)

The undue delay in legally enforcing the Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) is a source of grave injustice to persons with disabilities, as they are made to deal with the emotional oppression, impunity and affronts to their human dignity.

The absence of a single legislation in Ghana that adequately mainstreams disability deprives persons with disabilities of their constitutional right to be equally and effectively empowered as dignified Ghanaians. Above all, the practice of non-mainstreaming disability in the laws of Ghana contradicts good practice. This discriminatory practice must stop.

The bill is premised on Article 17 of the 1992 Constitution which does not specifically mention disability as a ground of discrimination. Consequently, the bill does not address “disability” in its entirety.

In line with Article 37, clause 2(a) and (b) of the 1992 Constitution, we as persons with disabilities, request that the Affirmative Action Bill is amended to achieve the de facto equality of persons with disabilities and the full realisation of our social

This article is by the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisation