Protect the rights of persons with disabilities

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pretoria – Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu says the countries that ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities need to put in place measures that will protect the rights of persons with disabilities. 

The Deputy Minister noted that although the South African Constitution guarantees the rights to equality and dignity to all South Africans, including persons with disabilities, this is not a reality for persons with disabilities.

“The right to dignity and persons with disabilities and their access to consensual sex is a case in point. Persons with disabilities are sexual human beings and as such have the right to enjoy a healthy sexual life, irrespective of the type and severity of their disability,” said Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu.

She noted that persons with disabilities who live in institutions, as well as persons with disabilities who experience severe movement and/or communication impairments, are particularly vulnerable to violation of their sexual rights.

“Persons with disabilities might in some instances require assistance in exercising the right to have consensual sex due to the severity of their impairments. Their right to choice, their right to safety, and their right to dignity can be limited if they are unable to access relevant information and support services that inform them of options and provide assistance during sex.

“All countries that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities therefore need to put in place national legislative and policy frameworks that promote respect for and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights of all individuals,” she said.

South Africa ratified the Convention in 2007 and has embarked on a structured process to embed the obligations of the Convention in South African law, policies and programmes.

Article 25 on The Right to Health, requires, among others, that government “provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes”.

Since 1994, the democratic government has put measures in place to guarantee equal sexual and reproductive health and rights for all South Africans whether women, children, older persons, the youth or persons with disabilities. 

This is inclusive of persons with intellectual, psychosocial and severe physical disabilities.

From November 3 to December 3, the country observes Disability Rights Awareness Month, which aims to increase awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities as equal citizens among society in general.

The campaign also aims to accelerate equal access to socio-economic opportunities for persons with disabilities by making information available and accessible.

Through the campaign, government and representative organisations of persons with disabilities, together with other social partners, also aim to harness the abilities of persons with disabilities as active participants in South Africa’s development. – SAnews.gov.za

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