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Keynote Speech Address on the Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

December 4, 2019

Keynote Speech Address on the Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN Community

by Risnawati Utami


Excellency the Representative of Thailand and Chair the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights;

Excellency of Japan to ASEAN Representative;

Excellency Australian Mission to ASEAN Representative;

Excellency Minister of Social Development and Human Security;

Excellency Doctor Seree Nonthasoot, Former Representative of Thailand to the AICHR;

Excellency Experts of ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, National Human Rights Commissions, and United Nations;

Representatives of ASEAN Disability Forum, Organizations of Persons with Disabilities, and Civil Society Organizations, distinguish Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I would like to express my gratitude to deliver the keynote speech in 2019 ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights Regional Dialogue on the Mainstreaming of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN Community on Gender Perspectives on Disability Rights. It is honored for me to be here and to share the importance values of disability, human rights and gender perspective today.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate to the ASEAN Members of States and Communities in particularly the ASEAN Intern-Governmental Commission of Human Rights/AICHR, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children/ACWC and the Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD) to develop and to adopt the Enabling Master Plan 2025 as a good practice to reflect in the contexts of regional platform on the rights of persons with disabilities and development framework. This initiative should be followed up directly by the ASEAN Members of States including the AICHR and ACWC joint task force through inclusive, accessible and sustainable actions in line with the CRPD principles in achieving the ASEAN Vision 2025. The vision is to realise a politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible, and a truly people-oriented, people-centred and rules-based ASEAN. It is therefore very important to ASEAN Members of States to respond proactively to the Enabling Master Plan 2025, in the contexts of respecting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of persons with disabilities, and ASEAN Vision 2025. It also encourages all ASEAN Members of States that have ratified the CRPD, to monitor the Convention and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development all together in the region.

However, in order to be complaint with the CRPD principles, there are challenges in terms of socio-cultural and the existing democratic governance values among the ASEAN Members of States. Firstly, when it comes to effective and meaningful participation and involvement of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, including organizations of women with disabilities and other under-represented organizations of persons with disabilities in public life are still lacking. As stated in the General Comment of the CRPD number 3/2016 on Women and Girls with Disabilities: the voices of women and girls with disabilities have historically been silenced, which is why they are disproportionately underrepresented in public decision-making. Owing to power imbalances and multiple discrimination, they have had fewer opportunities to establish or join organizations that can represent their needs as women, children and persons with disabilities. Based on ASEAN Disability Forum data that are only two countries in ASEAN that have established the registered national organization of women with disabilities in the country.

Also “there is strong evidence that women and girls with disabilities face barriers in most areas of life. These barriers create situations of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls with disabilities, in particular with regard to: equal access to education, economic opportunities, social interaction and justice; equal recognition before the law; and the ability to participate in politics and to exercise control over their own lives across a range of contexts, for example with regard to health care, including sexual and reproductive health services, and to where and with whom they wish to live (General Comment No. 3 (CRPD/C/GC/3, paragraph 7). In the General Comment also stated that Gender equality is central to human rights. Equality is a fundamental human rights principle that is inherently relative and context-specific. Ensuring the human rights of women requires, first and foremost, a comprehensive understanding of the social structures and power relations that frame laws and policies, as well as of economic and social dynamics, family and community life, and cultural beliefs (GC no.3/2016 para 8).

I also would like to address that women with disabilities are not a homogenous group as it is stipulated in the General Comment no.3/2016. They include indigenous women; refugee, migrant, asylum-seeking and internally displaced women; women in detention (hospitals, residential institutions, juvenile or correctional facilities and prisons); women living in poverty; women from different ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds; women with multiple disabilities and high levels of support; women with albinism; and lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, as well as intersex persons. The diversity of women with disabilities also includes all types of impairments, in other words physical, psychosocial, intellectual or sensory conditions that may or may not come with functional limitations. Disability is understood as the social effect of the interaction between individual impairment and the social and material environment, as described in article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Therefore, we really need to continue promoting equality and non discrimination of women and girls with disabilities and creating concrete actions in mainstreaming gender perspectives and human rights model of disability, in our future regional program development and human rights implementation in ASEAN. Also, we need to recognize the rights of women with disabilities as distinct rights holders. It entails for instance promoting the participation of women with disabilities in public decision-making.

Secondly, I would like to address “the critical issue of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations to voice their human rights and dignity in all ASEAN Members of States. It stipulates in the General Comment of the CRPD number 7/2018 on the participation of persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations, in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention that:

The principle of participation in public life is well established in article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reaffirmed in article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Participation, as a principle and a human right, is also recognized in other human rights instruments, such as under article 5 (c) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and articles 12 and 23 (1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes participation as both a general obligation and a cross-cutting issue. In fact, it enshrines the obligation of States parties to closely consult and actively involve persons with disabilities (art. 4 (3)) and the participation of persons with disabilities in the monitoring process (art. 33 (3)) as part of a wider concept of participation in public life.[1] The effective and meaningful participation and involvement also includes particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the human rights monitoring process and independent monitoring frameworks established.

Thirdly, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the AICHR and the ACWC to create the joint task force to monitor the implementation of the Enabling Master Plan 2025 and to engage actively amongst the ASEAN members of states including to closely consult and actively involve the organizations of women with disabilities and other underrepresented organizations. This initiative will strengthen consistently with human rights model of disability in increasing the progressive implementation of the CRPD and to ensure good democratic governance and social accountability in the ASEAN region.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage all of the ASEAN Members of States, to implement a comprehensive anti-discrimination framework to ensure the rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons with disabilities, and withdraw legislation criminalizing individuals or organizations of persons with disabilities on grounds of sex, gender or the social status of its members and denying their rights to participate in public and political life including rights to freedom of speech. The other aspect of mainstreaming rights of persons with disabilities on gender perspective, the ASEAN Members of States should address the emerging issues such as climate action and climate change adaption, disaster risk reduction, health care, inclusive education, decent work and employment and social protection.

Lastly, I would like to encourage all of ASEAN Members of States to recognize the importance of establishing, maintaining and promoting independent monitoring frameworks, including national human rights institutions, at all stages of the monitoring process[2]. Such institutions play the important roles in the monitoring process of the Convention, in particular promoting compliance at the national and regional level and in facilitating the coordinated actions of national actors, including State institutions, organizations of persons with disabilities and civil society organizations, to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities.

I thank you.

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