HUI TO DISCUSS THE ALTERNATE REPORT TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.
The hui I attended in South Auckland in March, was attended by people with disabilities, many representing organisations, and care-givers or family. I attended representing mainstream lobbyists NCW Papakura/Franklin and BPW Franklin, as well as family members with disabilities, for whom I advocate. In preparation for the meeting, I had downloaded and read the Convention as well as the Draft NZ Government Report (October2010), which was the first since the ratification by the NZ Government in September 2008. This report was due 31 March 2011 – it is also the first to be submitted to the UN Committee.
Nicola Owen has been seconded from Auckland Disability Law, to the Human Rights Commission to facilitate the meetings, with the assistance of CCS Disability Action and Women’s Disability Forum. We were informed that 18% (or 332,600) of women 25 years and over, report having a disability. Disabled women are disproportionately represented among those who lack qualifications, those who do not work and those who are living on a low income. Detachment from education and employment means that disabled women experience poor social and economic outcomes across life. Women with disabilities are twice as likely to experience domestic violence as those without disabilities and while all women can experience domestic violence, women’s refuges, which provide a safe place for women, are not always accessible for disabled women. One study undertaken 2007-2009, found 33% of victims of sexual violence, indicated that they had a disability.
The UNCRPD has two articles that particularly relate to women, girls and families – Article 6 : Women with Disabilities and Article23 : Respect for home and families which includes parents with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities and children with disabilities. The NZ Government has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) but not one Article includes women or girls with disabilities.
We were then given our opportunity to be involved. Each discussion group was asked to prioritise Important Rights – not surprisingly, they were similar. We were then asked to discuss and report back on experiences and difficulties that meant that disabled people were being discriminated against, again there were common themes, and when these were compared to Articles in the UNCRPD, questions were asked if policies and practices “delivered?” – in most cases the answers were “No”. We discussed ways forward – reporting to the UN Committee with a “shadow” report, working directly with the UN Committee, (although this is made difficult because the NZ Government has not signed or ratified the Optional Protocol), request that a new Article on Women with Disabilities be inserted into CEDAW, lobby for law reform in legislation that affects people with disabilities such as the Mental Health Act, the Immigration Act (the right to move countries) and improve legal education.
There are many agencies in New Zealand endeavouring to improve the living standards of people with disabilities and their caregivers, to ensure adequate funding and provision of resources are available. Some are actively advocating for their members and clients, but it is so often an uphill battle. Mainstream organisations such as BPW NZ need to utilise their energies and lobbying capacity to make gains for those who are less able to fight for their own rights. Two resolutions were adopted at BPW NZ Conference which provides policy for BPW, to urge the NZ Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to UNCRPD and to urge the NZ Government to request the United Nations to introduce a new Article to CEDAW, to eliminate discrimination against women with disabilities.
prepared by Dianne Glenn, Past President BPW NZ