Disability: From Pity to Rights

It comes as a matter of shock and befuddlement that our Parliament since 2010 has failed to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) placing Bhutan in an ignoble list of 10 countries not doing so.

On the other side are 182 countries who have ratified the convention.

One wonders if this failure by the Parliament and three governments so far is because the rights and conditions of the disabled people are not important for them or they want to push the disabled into the shadows in this GNH country.

A parliament that can go on and on about its own perks across three terms cannot find time to help improve the condition of more than 16,000 Bhutanese who suffer from severe to moderate disability and around 115,000 Bhutanese who are living with various forms of disability.

The ratification of the UNCRPD is not by any means the silver bullet but its failure to be ratified does say a lot. It is an irony that it could not go beyond the high level committee before the Parliament as the very government agencies on the committee tasked to help the disabled misunderstood the UNCRPD and shot it down saying Bhutan cannot implement such measures.

If our all knowing and insensitive bureaucrats had bothered to check, the UNCRPD does not demand immediate implementation but it is a statement of intent and sets a country on the right course of giving dignity and rights to the disabled.

As a small tight knit community Bhutanese by and large are sympathetic towards the disabled, however, the time has now come for Bhutan to move beyond pity to providing legal rights and protection for the disabled.

Our pity should not determine if a disabled person can access education and health or not but it is that person’s right.

The time has come to make Bhutan accessible and inclusive for our disabled fellow citizens.

“Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.” Stevie Wonder

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