Photo Courtesy: Ability Bhutan Society

PM says not against joining UNCRP and education access for disabled students a priority

With Bhutan being one of the last 10 countries in the world whose Parliament is yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) the Prime Minister said that he is not against Bhutan joining UNCRP but it must be staggered.

He said more than just joining the convention he said real actions on the ground are more important first.

The government in 2019 approved the Disability Policy which has been in the works since 2014.

“We are trying whatever we can when it comes to the Disability Policy. Firstly, we are trying with education. One should not be left out of education because he or she is disabled.  I feel that is the number one and the most important component,” said Lyonchhen Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering.

 “Not having access to a building because he or she cannot walk upstairs is important, but I think education is more important than that,” said the Pm.

Giving the example of the Wangsel Institute for the deaf he visited on global disability day on 3rd December the PM said such institutes that cater to giving education to the disabled students are important. “As long as that is being done the rest will follow,” he said.

“Education as in making them read and learn and giving them knowledge and also educating the general public and educating you and myself,” added the PM.

“That day when they hoisted the national flag and they all sang the national anthem emotions came out of my heart and my eyes were full of tears because they were singing the national anthem but I couldn’t hear anything,” said the PM.

He said only the madam was singing but they were using hand signs and it gave him the feeling that is also serving the nation as they are singing the same national anthem but in the way they are doing it their devotion to the country could be more.

“When they did this (Raven Sign) I think they prayed more for His Majesty then what we would have done. I felt they must be supported,” said the PM.

On the convention he said he does not see any problem in joining and he also does not see any problem in delaying the joining because he said every component is being met.

He said that in the policy for disabled people everything is there and there is just one line added later which says that all the requirements will be met as and when budgetary provisions are available.

The PM said that if one wants a disabled people accessible building from day one then it is not possible. If one wants a public transportation system friendly for differently abled people right away, then it is not possible.

“So these have to be staggered and joining is not a problem at all but it is just a formality.

“Joining is just for moral boosting. Just because we did not join does not mean we are affected. We are doing whatever we can and at the appropriate time we can do it, I don’t see any problem with that,” said the PM.

He said when he says he does not have any problems with that it then it means they may do it anytime.

“I don’t think it needs urgent attention as because of that nothing is affected here. Everything is being provided,” claimed the PM.

“It depends on how you look at it. If you look at it from a holistic manner, we have come a long way and once we have everything in place a legal document will be very effective. That legal document will not be effective if we have the legal document first and not having the capacity to do it,” added the PM.

Taking the example what he called certain draconian acts from then past he asked what would happen if a building owners builds a building without disabled access and by the act they go and fix them.

“You build a building with a wheelchair accessible ramp and for 20 years if there are no disabled people staying there then you cannot force them to stay there. There are practical issues. I think as a nation we are going very well,” said the PM.

He said the feeling is one may want an Act but every agency feels that they need an Act and that the Act will give them everything as if an Act is the solution.

“How many agencies with the Act are not getting what the Act says. So I am not a big fan of Acts but I am a big fan of action,” said the PM.

Disabled based CSOs on the other hand argue the need for joining the convention and an even an Act to create pressure to change the system and also ensure accountability.

182 countries of the world and their Parliaments have ratified the convention in their Parliaments committing themselves to the rights and equality of disabled people.

The Convention is a global shift from viewing persons with disabilities as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing them as full and equal members of society, with human rights.

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