Heralding a new perspective of Ableism, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) introduced a Paradigm shift in the discourse and perception of Disability. It is the first global human rights law or convention of the 21st Century, and spells out that as humans, we are all equal and enjoy equal rights and privileges. In other words, Disability rights are human rights; a central idea of the Disability rights movements. The question however remains, to which extent is this idea of the Convention promoted and implemented in the Global South? Disability is still seen as a concept than a moral topic, a medical than a social phenomenon. Helen Meekosha and Karen Soldatic (2014) in their presentation, “Human Rights and the Global South: the case of disability” argue that the UNCRPD was initiated by Mexico (or South American nations, so to say) and Africa. However, promotion and facilitation of a healthy living for Persons with Disabilities in these nations are still in the emerging stages. Persons with Disabilities are still grappling with high rates of poverty, unemployment, health issues and inequality. Illiteracy rate among this group of people is higher than national records.
Another issue of containment is the topic of Religion. The Global South records the highest rate of religion. In most societies of the South disability is seen by most religious people as a curse, a spiritual disease which has no cure. As a result of these superstitious beliefs among religious Christians, Moslems, Confucianism (especially in China, Japan and North Korea) etc. many disabled persons, especially in Africa and some Asian countries have landed in so called Prayer camps with some, especially, the mentally disabled been put in chains, “waiting for deliverance from God!” In Indonesia, the same practice, called “Passung”, mostly practiced in rural areas have kept Persons with Disabilities in secret places and temples because the families do not know what to do with the impairments. The stories of these victims have become very sad.
I am however of the view that, welfare states have a responsibility in eradicating poverty and dealing with inequalities. In the Global North (a term used to describe countries of Western Europe and North America, and here I will include, which are as well welfare states) a significant shift is seen in the situation of Person with Disabilities. Not only are there existing and binding laws protecting disabled persons, but also a significant welfare is giving them to attain social equality. In the Global South (nations which have historically been under imperial powers, living the consequences of poverty and economic hardships), the laws exist without them being enacted.
We stand the threshold of a new decade; a new era where a greater responsibility is being expected. It is therefore incumbent on all of us to ensure that human rights remain a stronger value we all esteem. I call upon all governments, especially, those in the Global South to sit up. An important step is to ensure education for ALL. Education is light. With a higher education, people become eligible for employment, thereby, reducing poverty and inequalities. Disability is to be seen no longer a concept but a moral issue. Barrier-free facilities must be central part of Community design. For not only Persons with Disabilities require barrier-free facilities, but as people become older, they become less and less able to use mainstream facilities like Stairs in high buildings and high steps in public transports.
It is my pleasure to bring to you stories and experiences of the affected persons as well as the professional ideas of caregivers and caretakers in these nations. I invite you to stick around.