A Senior Law Lecturer at the University of Botswana(UB)Dr. Liz Macharia Mokobi has urged the government of Botswana to consider enacting a law that will safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities and amend existing ones which as at now have reduced them to objects of medical treatment,charity and social care.
She said this in light of what has been viewed as preparations to ratify a United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) amid concerns that there has not been adequate consultation thus far.
Mokobi pointed out that in the absence of such overhauling, ratification of the UN Convention will be meaningless in that any state accepting the legal obligations of the CRPD is expectyed to review and revise its laws to ensure that they comply with the Convention. This is because states are by virtue of such ratification of the Convention obligated to create an environment that is conducive to the fullest enjoyment and fulfilment on an equal basis of the rights of persons with disablity.
“It begins with consultation in that people with disabilities must be seen and feel to have been part of every process that ultimately impacts in their lives as stipulated in Article 4 of the CRPD,” said Mokobi.
Even as she called on government to deliver,Mokobi’s presentation was nonetheless a double edged sword as it cautioned representative organizations who seemed in haste to see the Convention ratified at the blink of an eye,that they also had a responsibility to see to it that those affected fully understand their responsibilities so that they can be informed participants and therefore resourceful in moving the “democratization process” forward.
She challenged, “Think about the rights in the Convention,which ones do you have, which ones would you like to have and in what way would you say the absence of a disability law affects your life or the life of your loved ones with disabilities and determine as well whether indeed people with disabilities are viewed as objects for medical care,social support and charity.”
Ratified by One hundred and seventy seven (177) countries, the CRPD is an agreement entered into on 13 December 2006 between states, which sets out legal protections for persons with disability and is legally binding. It has an optional protocol or subsidiary agreement on the basis of which individuals can bring their cases against own countries when and where they have been violated, to special committee to assert their rights.
Another protocol considered equally imperative for government to sign is the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disability which Botswana refuses to be bound by.
Be that as it may, there is no guarantee thus far that government will take measures to comform to international best practice with regard to affording persons with disabilities the dignity and autonomy being accorded by human rights oriented systems around the world in a show of advanced democratic ideals for which Botswana is always showered with accolades.
So enactment of such protective legislation means domesticating the same rights and duties that are espoused by the Convention at issue as well as the revision and or repealing of those laws that go against the Convention thereby making the government accountable. In the same vein Botswana would be expected to develop a clear cut policy and strategy to monitor implementation of the law.
Notwithstanding the consensus around the issue of a more wider consultative scope before the proposed Bill aimed at passing the relevant, typical of Botswana’s own devised governance model, “No cause for hurry nor change” is the position expressed by the Office of the President in response to the urge to create a more enabling environment.
“The proposed Treaty reflects and affirms the protection of people with disabilities which I can attest that they already exist under Botswana’s domestic laws,” said Nonofo Molefhi, Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Administration.
Sadly, the plroblem of marginalizing people with disabilities is a global phenomenon as reflected by the failure of both Politics and Law to mention disability as an entry point thus further entrenching the notion that people with disabilities only belong to the peripheri where charity shall find them.