KATHMANDU, JUL 05 – Leaders of the disabled community met with politicians on Saturday, demanding that the recently released draft of the constitution address their political rights in its final version.
Sudarshan Subedi, a human rights lawyer and national chairperson of the National Federation of the Disabled, said that the activists handed the political party leaders—including Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal—a written document which highlights the importance of ensuring the political participation of people with disability. “It is very crucial that our political rights are ensured now in the constitution. Our participation should be in all state bodies—from the national to the local level,” he said.
While the draft of the constitution secures the social, health, educational and cultural rights of the disabled, it is silent on their political rights. The activists raised concerns over two articles in particular: article 23 and 88. Article 23, which is about rights to equality, fails to mention the rights of disabled persons to enjoy political rights on an equal footing. Article 88, which talks about proportional electoral system, lists marginalised groups such as women, Dalits, Raute, Tharus, Muslims, indigenous minorities, but not disabled persons.
“It is important that our representatives are elected to positions at all levels,” said Subedi. In their document presented to the lawmakers, the activists also pointed out several other articles in the constitution that need to be amended to include disabled people, such as article 47 on social justice and article 55 on social security and inclusion.
Alpana Bhandari, disability rights advocate, said that since Nepal has ratified international conventions on rights of the disabled, it is obliged to follow through. Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability states that the state should guarantee persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on equal basis which includes ensuring that disabled people can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others.
“Nepal has ratified both the convention and its optional protocol without reservation, which means that the constitution is obliged to acknowledge the political rights of people with disabilities,” said Bhandari. “Disabled people are not objects of charity. It’s a major human rights issue. All of their rights need to be ensured.”
According to Nepal Disabled Human Rights Centre, around two percent of the total population of Nepal has some kind of disability, with most of them socially and economically backward. Subedi said that the leaders listened to their concerns and promised to take action.
“They have said they will make amendments to the constitution but a promise is not enough. We will have to follow up and watch the process,” said Subedi.