IWTC Women's GlobalNet #315
Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide

December 21, 2006
By Joeyta Bose




The United Nation’s General Assembly, on December 13, adopted the first-ever convention that protects the rights of the world’s 650 million persons with disabilities. Passed after five years of intense lobbying and organization by persons with disabilities, civil society groups and governments across the world, the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities must now be ratified by 20 countries to come into force as an international law. The treaty will be open for signature in March 2007 and countries that sign are urged to ratify it, and must then adopt laws that conform to the convention’s provisions on prohibiting discrimination against persons with disability in several spheres, including education, employment, health and access to information, justice and public facilities. The treaty also comes with an Optional Protocol that will enable groups and individuals in countries that sign it, to petition the UN Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, if they are powerless to redress grievances against persons with disabilities within their own countries.


Other than protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, the convention specifically recognizes and emphasizes the special needs of the most vulnerable – children with disabilities and women with disabilities – who are subject to multiple forms of discrimination. The treaty affirms equality between men and women as one of its guiding principles and, in an article devoted to the rights of women with disabilities, calls for the implementation of measures that ensure “the full development, advancement and empowerment of women” and their equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Particular mention of women with disabilities is made in sections of the convention that address exploitation, violence, abuse and social protection and poverty reduction programs.   


This attention to the concerns and rights of women with disabilities came about through the tireless advocacy of a women’s committee that took shape within a larger union of organizations of and for persons with disabilities, which had been advocating on the disability convention at the UN. The International Disability Caucus Women’s Committee, as it was called, worked to ensure that the rights of women with disabilities were articulated exclusively and strongly in Article 6, and that they resonated through the rest of the convention.  Disabled People’s International, one of the organization’s that co-chaired the women’s committee’s, held several meetings and e-mail discussions so that women from different regions around the world could have input to this process. Mary Ennis, Disabled People’s International executive director said "historically, millions of women with disabilities have been minimized and marginalized, used and abused. Many of us have been denied our basic human rights on a daily basis. At long last, with the adoption of the new treaty, our situation has been acknowledged, and a first giant step has been taken towards positive change."


Now that the General Assembly has passed this landmark convention, advocacy groups of and for persons with disabilities, gender justice advocates and all civil society groups need to support their own governments to ratify it so that it can become international law. A comprehensive convention ratification toolkit, assembled by Disabled People’s International, can be found at www.icrpd.net. The toolkit is also available on a CD and can be requested by writing to info@dpi.org or Disabled Peoples' International, 902 - 388 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3C 0C8.


Further information:

- Resolution text at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/ahcfinalrepe.htm

- Legal background paper on gendering the convention: http://v1.dpi.org/lang-en/resources/topics_detail?page=446

- Article on women with disabilities organizing at the UN: http://v1.dpi.org/lang-en/resources/topics_detail?page=93  



A new book entitled “Women, Disability and Identity” appears in the Women, Ink. Catalogue, among some 250 books and training resources on women and development.

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