Call to amend disabled welfare act
Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Staff Correspondent

Academics, lawyers and journalists at a seminar Monday called for making amendments to the disabled welfare act 2001 or formulating a new law in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Terming the act incomplete and discriminatory, they said the people with disability were in vulnerable condition and being subjected to discrimination and deprived of their rights to healthcare, education and even access to government services.

The committee, formed to implement the disabled welfare act, was not functioning properly, the speakers said at the seminar on 'Towards a New Disability Law in the light of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities'. Bangladesh ratified the UN Convention on November 30, 2007.

Action on Disability and Development organised the daylong national seminar at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in Dhaka. Disabled people and the representatives from the government and non-governmental organisations also addressed the seminar.

Dr Abdullah Al Faruque of Chittagong University and Advocate Naim Ahmed presented two keynote papers in the seminar. Dr Abdullah said persons with disability, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged segment of the society, were continuing to struggle against many social and economic disparities.

'Attitude towards the disabled persons is still charitable or humanitarian ones and they are frequently denied to fundamental rights,' he said, stressing on a new legislation combining both right-based and welfare for significant contribution to the promotion and protection of their human rights. Naim said it took more than a decade to frame the act. 'We have been trying for years to bring change in the law and make it more effective.'

Associate Professor of Tokyo University Nagase Osamu who flew to Dhaka Monday morning talked about intellectually impaired people and emphasised on the employment of the disabled people in every sector.

Highlighting Japan's position, Osamu said his country abolished a 'notorious' law having a provision for sterilisation of the disabled people. 'Only laws cannot change the situation and the mindset of the common people towards the disabled people should be changed.'

Speaking the seminar as chief guest, special assistant to the chief adviser Abdul Malek assured of cooperation in efforts relating to formulation of a new law and establishing the rights of the disabled.

Secretary of social welfare ministry MA Hye Howlader said the welfare act must be amended to remove the existing loopholes.

'We should take the issue to the council of the advisers for the wellbeing of the 15 million disabled people.' Moderated by Sara Hossain, the seminar was also addressed by Justice Golam Rabbani, Khandaker Jahurul Alam, Dr Shirin S Chowdhury and head of delegation of the European Commission Stefan Frowein.

Country director of Action on Disability and Development Mosharraf Hossain chaired the seminar.

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