Enshrine Rights of Persons With Disabilities in Constitution- Nancy Anderson
Attorney-at-law and tutor at the Norman Manley Law School, Nancy Anderson, has called for the rights of persons with disabilities to be included in the Constitution.
Anderson, who delivered the 4th Charter of Rights Lecture in recognition of International Human Rights Day, which was observed last Thursday, noted that despite the passage of the Disabilities Act, more needs to be done to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom 2011 made several groundbreaking amendments to Chapter III of the Constitution.
Considered to be one of the most contentious sections of the Charter when it was being debated in Parliament, the prohibition against discrimination clause does not speak to persons with disability - a legislative blunder that Anderson wants rectified.
"Ideally, there should be a comprehensive and unequivocal legal statement of the rights of persons with disabilities, and detailed legislation to make those guarantees real in practice. It is critically important that the recognition and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities be enshrined in the supreme law of the country, that is, in the national Constitution. This will ensure the highest possible legal protection and recognition," she said.
Anderson further argued that including the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities will involve introducing disability as one of the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited; or explicitly protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in the Constitution, whether as part of a general guarantee of equality, or in the form of specific provisions relating to the rights of disabled persons.
That the Charter excludes specific provisions relating to the rights of persons with disability raises, for Anderson, the question of whether or not the rights of disabled persons are part of the general guarantee of equality to all citizens of Jamaica.
As it regards the introduction of the Disability Act, Anderson lamented the fact that the bill is yet to be brought into operation even though it has been signed into law by the governor general from October of last year. This, she said, violates the principle which would see to the ratification of international treaties into domestic law within a reasonable time.
Jamaica became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007.