AMMAN — Efforts to improve the lives of people with disabilities (PWD) in Jordan during the past several decades have been poor in quantity and quality, restricted to slow-pace “philanthropic” strategies, according to a group of civil society organisations (CSO).
“A Mirror of Reality — A Tool for Change”, the first report issued by the civil society coalition monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), did not paint a very flattering picture of the situation of PWD in the Kingdom.
Although acknowledging the fact that the Kingdom was one of the first countries to sign the international convention without any reservations in 2008, activists said little tangible progress has been made in advancing the rights of PWD since then.
“The main obstacle facing citizens with disabilities is that their issues are tackled from the perspective of philanthropy and care, rather than rights,” activist Muhammad Azzeh noted during a ceremony yesterday to highlight the report’s main findings.
He noted, however, that the establishment of the Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities (HCD) and the endorsement of the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were major steps towards including PWD issues in policies and development strategies.
Conducted by 18 NGOs and 40 activists representing CSOs working with PWD, the report found gaps in national legislation concerning PWD and in their application, overlaps in the roles and responsibilities of state agencies targeting this segment of society, and weak engagement of PWD in the decision-making process.
Challenges were also found in health, education, employment and accessibility, while a lack of statistics was a significant hindrance in tracking the number and status of Jordanians with disabilities.
“For example, employers can simply provide a letter to the concerned authorities claiming that the nature of the work does not allow employing PWD and thus exclude themselves from the 4 per cent quota to employ citizens with special needs,” Azzeh underlined, noting that unemployment among PWD is estimated at 12 per cent.
Turning to education, the activist noted that teachers are allowed to fail students with hearing impairments over and over again on the pretext that they need more time to absorb the taught material.
“On the other hand, teachers are allowed to pass students with [other] disabilities in all the scholastic years, provided that their disabilities are the cause of their learning difficulties… this is why some Tawjihi graduates with disabilities cannot spell their names,” he added.
The social stigma PWD face in Jordan is still a primary concern for activists, as it affects the day-to-day lives of this segment.
Shaman Majali, spokesperson of the CSO coalition, noted that the absence of clear strategies and laws directed towards protecting the rights of PWD has made them more vulnerable to violence and mistreatment.
“This is particularly obvious considering the fact that hysterectomies are performed on some 64 women with mental disabilities each year out of fear of their becoming pregnant if raped and for hygienic reasons to stop their periods,” Majali highlighted, calling for strict laws to criminalise these acts.
The report, which took two years to complete, is based on a thorough analysis of the national strategies and policies targeting PWD, in addition to interviews, according to the coalition.
Although the study was intended to be issued in response to an official report outlining the Kingdom’s status in implementing the provisions of the CRPD, the coalition decided to issue their study now, before the official report, to serve as a reference for CSOs and other concerned agencies.
“We are planning to refer the report to the UN at the end of March… the government should have presented its report two years after signing the convention,” members of the coalition said.
As part of its UN treaty obligations, the Kingdom is required to issue a report on its compliance with the UN conventions. The government has said the official report on compliance with the CRPD is currently being prepared but it is not clear when it will be released.
The CSO report, to be fully published today on www.crpdjordan.org, recommended reviewing national legislation, policies and strategies concerning PWD in order to address their needs from a human rights perspective.
Recommendations also included establishing a monitoring mechanism to track discriminatory practices and violations committed against PWD and follow up on the application of laws concerning them.