An analysis of “The Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill”

The main objective of a law is to regulate society, ensure protection and defense of people’s rights and find solutions to conflicts. Mauritius signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in September 2007 and ratified it on January 2010. The UNCRPD Committee recommended Mauritius to prepare a Disability Bill which will ensure the protection and promotion of persons with disabilities. It makes nearly two decades since a draft of the Disability Bill was being prepared but it never really found its way to the Parliament. The community of persons with disabilities and in particular myself as a Disability Rights Activist waited for so long to have this bill.

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To work out any law is not an easy task. It is even more complex when it concerns a law for persons with disabilities with so many implications attached to it, including regular meetings and consultations with all the stakeholders in this field. We must agree with the effort put in the preparation of such an important law by the Honourable Mrs. Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo Minister of Social Integration, Social Security and National Solidarity to have “The Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill” in Mauritius. The issue of disability does not concern only the Ministry of Social Security but all ministries without exception. For instance, ministry of transport to find a solution for accessibility in our public transport, Ministry of Labour to deal with employment of persons with disabilities, Ministry of Education for inclusive education amongst other ministries. Minister Daureeawoo will make sure that all the ministries abide by and implement the different parts of the law for an inclusive society once it is promulgated.

There are many positive points in the law which will definitely protect and promote persons with disabilities in our country. For example, every government department must take into account the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities in all their policies and programmes. As an outcome, this will bring about inclusiveness of persons with disabilities in all decision-making and policies. You can prepare a law but if it is not implemented then it is useless. Another vital point is the establishment of an Independent Monitoring Mechanism which will have a crucial role to play in monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) through which the law is prepared.

Any person victim of discrimination on the basis of disability will commit an offense and be subject to a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees with imprisonment not exceeding 5 years; prohibition from abusive treatment in all its forms shall equally pay the same amount of fine and be liable to the same terms of imprisonment. These both will prevent persons with disabilities from being discriminated against and abused. On employment, there are a series of conditions, remuneration and conditions of employment applied to prevent discrimination. Another interesting measure is the prime à l’emploi scheme whereby the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) will pay employees with disabilities 15,000 rupees per month for a job. This will encourage employers to recruit persons with disabilities as they will also benefit from other fiscal incentives. On the security basis, persons with disabilities will obtain police assistance wherever and whenever needed, and protection orders issued by the court to prevent any kind of abuse when their lives are in danger.

It is difficult for me to make a complete analysis of the bill in a single article just to show how many interesting and positive aspects of the law are available to transform the lives of persons with disabilities. However, it is important for me to mention the establishment of a National Empowerment Authority. This authority will have a vital role to play in the implementation of all the points in the law from prohibition of discrimination and abuse, to employment, training and education, sports, recreational and cultural activities, registration of persons with disabilities, awareness raising campaigns, setting up of centres for persons with disabilities, set requirements and standards and codes of conduct for organisations of persons with disabilities to follow strictly amongst others found as the functions of the authority.

To conclude as a Disability Rights Activist, it is a great sense of happiness, pride and immense pleasure for me to pen down my analysis on “The Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill » which I heartily welcome. The law once promulgated will be a landmark accomplishment and history for the blessed community of persons with disabilities to have our first law which I am confident will improve the lives of persons with disabilities in Mauritius. And this would not have been possible without the dedication, hard work and commitment of the Honourable Minister Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo to work tirelessly for the welfare and wellbeing of persons with disabilities in Mauritius!

Disability Rights Activist

Queen’s Young Leader

Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society

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