• Arlene S Kanter
  • Bond, Schoeneck & King Distinguished Professor of Law, Laura J & L Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence Director, Disability Law and Policy Programme, Syracuse University College of Law.
  • Inviolata Sore
  • M.S. Education 2015, Syracuse University.
  • Daniel Van Sant
  • J.D./M.S. Education, expected 2016, Syracuse University.

  • AS Kanter, I Sore & D Van Sant ‘Country report: Tunisia’ (2015) 3 African Disability Rights Yearbook 265-287
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2413-7138/2015/v3n1a12
  • Download article in PDF

 1 Population indicators

1.1 What is the total population of Tunisia?

According to the 2014 census, Tunisia’s population is 10982754.1

1.2 Describe the methodology used to obtain the statistical data on the prevalence of disability in Tunisia. What criteria are used to determine who falls within the class of persons with disabilities in Tunisia?

WHO estimates show that the prevalence of disability is 16,3 per cent. This figure is derived from national census, disability survey or components from other surveys.2In 2003, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Solidarity and Tunisians Abroad conducted a comprehensive survey of disability in Tunisia. The data gathered on persons with disabilities were included in the general census, which is conducted every 10 years. 3

 

Tunisia report 2015-2

Source: Knoema ‘World Report on Disability, 2014’4

Most important indicators concerning disability also indicate the prevalence of disabilities as illustrated in the table that follows:

Distribution by type

Type

Number

Percentage

Motor disability

63747

42,1

Mental disability

42016

27,7

Visual Disability

20130

13,3

Auditory disability

18832

12,4

Multiple disability

6698

4,4

Total

151423

100

Source: UNCRPD implementation report- Tunisia5

1.3 What is the total number and percentage of persons with disabilities in Tunisia?

The 2014 census found that 2,3 per cent of Tunisia’s population (around 252000 people) have a disability. 6

1.4 What is the total number and percentage of women with disabilities in Tunisia?

The percentage of women with disabilities amongst members of the disabled community is 33,6 per cent and the total number is 50863 out of a total of 151423 persons with disabilities by 2003. 7

1.5 What is the total number and percentage of children with disabilities in Tunisia?

Children and youth with disabilities count for 37 per cent of the persons with disabilities. 8

1.6 What are the most prevalent forms of disability and/or peculiarities to disability in Tunisia?

The most prevalent forms of disability in Tunisia are:

  • Motor disabilities with a prevalence of 42,1 per cent;
  • Mental disabilities at 27,7 per cent;9
  • Visual disability at 13,3 per cent; and
  • Auditory disability 16,9 per cent respectively.10

47,8 per cent of these disabilities are due to congenital causes and 38,7 per cent are due to illnesses. 11 

2 Tunisia’s international obligations

2.1 What is the status of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Tunisia? Did Tunisia sign and ratify the CRPD? Provide the date(s).

The Tunisian government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007,12 and ratified it and its Optional Protocol on 2 April 2008.

2.2 If Tunisia has signed and ratified the CRPD, when was its country report due? Which government department is responsible for submission of the report? Did Tunisia submit its report? If so, and if the report has been considered, indicate if there was a domestic effect of this reporting process. If not, what reasons does the relevant government department give for the delay?

Tunisia’s country report was due on 2 April 2010 and was submitted to the CRPD Committee on14 July 2010. DPOs participated in the reporting process.13 The first periodic report of Tunisia was prepared during its entry into the democratic transition process that began on 14 January 2012. 14

Yes, Tunisia has domesticated the CRPD and the Collectiftunisien pour la promotion des droits des personnes en situation de handicap (CTPDPSH) (Tunisian Grouping to promote the rights of persons with disabilities) is responsible for disability issues and it has recommended that:

  • The rights of persons with disabilities should be made an integral part of development programmes;
  • the genuine participation of the persons with disabilities in all democratic institutions and in the devising and implementation of policies concerning them should be guaranteed;
  • the definition of disability and the conditions for issuing a disability card contained in Outline Act No. 83-2005 should be revised;
  • the Guardianship and Trusteeship Act [Year] should be repealed and replaced with legislation on assisted decision-taking;
  • legislative provisions on the occupational integration of persons with disabilities should be revised;
  • the necessary measures should be adopted to ensure the real application of its inclusive education strategy; and
  • that the requisite funds should be raised to ensure that persons with disabilities can lead an independent life based on individual choice. 15
2.3 While reporting under various other United Nations instruments, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, or the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, did Tunisia also report specifically on the rights of persons with disabilities in its most recent reports? If so, were relevant ‘concluding observations’ adopted? If relevant, were these observations given effect to? Was mention made of disability rights in your state’s UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR)? If so, what was the effect of these observations/recommendations?
  • UN Instruments

Tunisia has acceded to the following international instruments:

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
  • The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;
  • The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Country reports are also presented to the Human Rights Committee (ICCPR), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the CRPD Committee.

The Committees have provided feedback that should improve implementation and increased recognition of the rights of people with disabilities. 16

Tunisia’s most recent Periodic Report was made for the period between 1995-2006.17 Tunisia made this report during the ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), held from the 15-28 November 2007, in Brazzaville, Congo. In its report, Tunisia has several articles, which talk about rights.

Article 18 talks about protection of the family, of women, of the child, of the elderly and physically disabled persons.18 The Report recommends that the Tunisian government:

  • Put in place concrete measures to ensure that women gain access to and are represented at the high-ranking positions of the Tunisian Government;
  • Incorporate into Tunisian national legislation the rights of older persons and people with disabilities;
  • Take appropriate measures for the ratification of human rights instruments that Tunisia has not yet ratified/acceded to; and
  • Provide information in the next Periodic Reports on the situation of human rights defenders in Tunisia, and more precisely on Non- Governmental Organisations, which are active in Tunisia.
  • Regional Instruments19
  • African Charter on Human Rights

Tunisia did submit a state report and the concluding observations recommended that the rights of people with disabilities needed to be incorporated into national legislation. 20

  • Organization of African Unity Convention governing specific aspects of the Refugee Problem in Africa
  • Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.

Tunisia’s State Report states that mothers of children with disabilities are given special considerations in maternity support and employment initiatives for people with disabilities are also discussed.21 No concluding observations have been submitted.

2.4 Was there any domestic effect on Tunisia’s legal system after ratifying the international or regional instruments in 2.3 above? Does the international or regional instrument that has been ratified require Tunisia’s legislature to incorporate it into the legal system before the instrument can have force in Tunisia’s domestic law? Have Tunisia’s courts ever considered this question? If so, cite the case(s).

Tunisia follows a dualist approach to international law. The new Constitution states that all international treaties ratified by Tunisia, customary international law and general international law have legal force in Tunisia, and that the core international human rights treaties which Tunisia has ratified are applicable and binding in domestic law. 22

Article 20 of the 2014 Constitution of the Tunisian Republic states that ‘International agreements approved and ratified by the Assembly of the People’s Representatives are superior to laws and inferior to the Constitution’. 23

Yes, there was legal effect on Tunisia’s legal system after ratifying the international and regional instruments as highlighted below:

  • Participation in several regional and international conferences on the Convention and its implementation, including the regional conferences and seminars that were held in 2009 in Tripoli, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Rabat and Doha. 24
  • Tunisia adopted the section of the CRPD on the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. It aims to ensure rights for all Tunisians and ensure equal opportunities in all areas. The law considers that the protection of the disabled is a national responsibility. It also implies the establishment of national strategies for the disabled in all areas. 25
  • The International Classification of Functioning (ICF) replaced the International Classification of Disability. Tunisia has adopted this new classification in dealing with cases of persons with disabilities (handing out cards for the disabled). The new approach adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) helped change the view towards the disabled. 26
  • Tunisia has adopted several measures to protect the rights of persons with disabilities: Promulgating the constitution; and creating a High Council for the Disabled, chaired by the Prime Minister and comprising members of government and civil society (political parties and associations). The Council meets annually to assess the situation of persons with disabilities and make recommendations; ensuring access to medical and social services for people with disabilities; ensuring the basic training necessary for social integration; ensuring effective integration in employment, entertainment and sport; creating an institute for the advancement of persons with disabilities, which provides academic training for education specialised staff along with other missions; supporting associations; ensuring the integration of persons with disabilities in the world of new technologies; raising awareness through the media; developing scientific research partnerships with international actors and creating a national award of the President of the Republic to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. 27

Tunisian courts have dealt with several cases which have led to judicial decisions that demonstrate that persons with disabilities have legal protection. For instance: 28

  • Appeal Court decision No 3509 of 18 May 1981. In this case, the Court found that while according to the medical certificate the appellant suffered from disturbances caused by schizophrenia, this did not impair his intellectual capacities and did not necessarily mean that he was incompetent to resort to law without a guardian. 29
  • Appeal Court decision No 24709 of 25 February 1992. In this case, the Court ruled to void a contract concluded by a mentally impaired person prior to his being declared legally incompetent because he was known by reputation to be mentally impaired at the time when the contract was concluded. 30
  • Decision No 35339 of 20 July 2005 of the President of the Court of First Instance in Tunis. In this case, the President of the Court decided not to agree to permit the person concerned to donate one of her kidneys to the National Centre for the Promotion of Organ Transplantation, although she had agreed to do so, as she had been demonstrated to be mentally impaired and her consent to donate was therefore contrary to the provisions of article 2 of Act No 2 of March 1992 concerning the harvesting and transplantation of human organs, which requires the donor to be of sound mind. 31
  • Decision No 45062 of 14 November 2009 issued by the Qaranbaliyah Court of First Instance. In this case, the Court decided to revoke its earlier decision to declare an individual legally incompetent and to restore his legal capacity, as the person concerned had submitted a claim citing a medical certificate showing that he was of sound mind.
  • Decision No 20082 of 6 January 2011 issued by the Tunis Court of First Instance. In this case, the Court decided to reject an application to declare an individual legally incompetent as, in the Court’s view, the principle was soundness of mind; an application to declare a person legally incompetent and to appoint a guardian for him would require evidence of a medical condition and it was insufficient merely to declare a person legally incompetent. 32
2.5 With reference to 2.4 above, has the CRPD or any other ratified international instrument been domesticated? Provide details.

Tunisia has taken a number of measures to harmonise domestic law and policy with the Convention.

  • Law No 83 of 15 August 2005 on the advancement and protection of persons with disabilities. 33
  • Law No 80 of 23 July 2002, supplemented by Law No 9 of 11 February 2008, which prohibits discrimination against school-age children. 34
  • Law No 10 of 11 February 2008, concerning vocational training, provides in article 3 that vocational training programmes, both in their substance and organisation, shall be based on the principle of equality of opportunity for all persons seeking training, and that such programmes must comply with the laws concerning persons with disabilities. 35
  • Under Law No 37 of 16 June 2008 concerning the Higher Committee for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and specifically article 5 thereof, the Higher Committee is authorised to make unannounced visits to children’s shelters and social institutions that care for persons with special needs in order to determine compliance with domestic law on human rights and fundamental freedoms. Tunisia has also promulgated Law No 66 of 3 November 2008. 36
  • In response to the CRPD committee members’ questions in their concluding observations about Tunisia’s country report relating to the low reported number of persons with disabilities in Tunisia, particularly women with disabilities, the Government of Tunisia said its definition had departed from the ‘medical model’ and is currently in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) classification of persons with disabilities. 37 

3 Constitution

3.1 Does the Constitution of Tunisia contain provisions that directly address disability? If so, list the provisions, and explain how each provision addresses disability.

Yes, the Constitution contains provisions that address disability directly, article 48 is a stand-alone article on disability.

  • Article 48: Persons with disabilities

The State shall protect persons with disabilities against any form of discrimination. Every disabled citizen shall have the right to benefit, based on the nature of the disability, from all of the measures guaranteeing their full integration into society. The State must take all necessary steps to ensure this. 38

3.2 Does the Constitution of Tunisia contain provisions that indirectly address disability? If so, list the provisions and explain how each provision indirectly addresses disability.

Yes, the Constitution of Tunisia contains provisions that indirectly address disability as follows:

  • Article 21 of Chapter 2 on the Rights and Liberties states that; All citizens, male and female alike, have equal rights and duties, and are equal before the law without any discrimination. The State guarantees to citizens individual and collective rights, and provides them with the conditions to lead a dignified life. 39
  • Article 22: The right to life is sacred and shall not be prejudiced except in extreme cases regulated by law. 40
  • Article 23: The state shall protect human dignity and physical integrity and shall prohibit psychological and physical torture. Crimes of torture are imprescriptible. 41
  • Article 32: The state shall guarantee the right to information and the right to access information. The state seeks to guarantee the right to access to communication. 42
  • Article 38: Health is a right for every person. The state shall ensure free health care for those without support and those with limited income. It shall guarantee the right to social assistance as specified by the law. 43
  • Article 40: Work is a right for every citizen, male or female alike. The state shall take necessary measures to ensure the availability of work on the basis of competence and fairness. All citizens, male or female shall have the right to adequate working conditions and fair pay. 44
  • Article 46: The state shall commit to protecting women’s achieved rights and seek to support and develop them. The state shall seek to take necessary measures to eliminate violence against women. 45
  • Article 47: The state shall provide all forms of protection to all children according to the best interest of the child with no discrimination. 46

 

4 Legislation

4.1 Does Tunisia have legislation that directly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the legislation and explain how the legislation addresses disability.

In response to a campaign led by experts, doctors and parents of the disabled, the Tunisian government signed an extensive set of laws and regulations governing the rights of people with disabilities in 2005. 47

  • Article 2 of decree number 2005-3087 of 29 November 2005 requires all Tunisian establishments employing more than 100 individuals to ensure that one per cent of their workforce is made up of disabled persons. These institutions are given tax incentives depending on the type and severity of their employees’ handicaps, with the enforcement of these quotas designated to the ‘inspecteur du travail’.48

Tunisian law requires all buildings, establishments and installations to allow full accessibility to those with motor and/or sensory handicaps. 49

  • The new article 212 of the Penal Code penalizes anyone ‘who exposes or allows the exposure of, neglects or allows the neglect with the intention of abandoning, of a child or a disabled person quite unable to protect himself, in a place full of people’, by inflicting on him a sentence of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of two hundred Dinars.50 The sentence will be doubled if the child is exposed or neglected in a place, which is not inhabited by people.
  • Article 213 (new) of the same Code adds that the perpetrator of the abandonment shall be punished with life imprisonment should the child or the disabled person die following this abandonment. 51

The guarantee of the health services and social security for physically disabled persons is considered as a (national responsibility) by article 3 of the orientation law no 2005-83 of 15 August 2005, relative to the promotion and protection of disabled persons. 52

  • Paragraph 106 states that, according to article 3 of the orientation law no 2005-83 of 15 August 2005, relative to the promotion and the protection of the physically disabled, the guarantee of health services and social benefits for the physically disabled is considered as a (national responsibility). 53
  • Paragraph 107 of Tunisia’s State Report on the Implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that, in regard to the reforms, the state has carried out:
  • The reinforcement of the health structures in the areas of diagnosis and early screening of illnesses likely to give rise to a disability with the increase of medical examinations during the antenatal phase;
  • The organisation of public opinion sensitisation campaigns relating to the importance of the pre-nuptial medical certificate;
  • The early provision of care for disabled children by means of socio-educational structures specialised in functional re-education and rehabilitation matters, 54
  • Paragraph 108 of the state report focuses on law no 92-83 of 3 August 1992, which states that relative to mental health and to the conditions of hospitalisation for mental disorders requires that the hospitalisation be done with respect for individual liberties and under conditions guaranteeing human dignity. 55
  • Paragraph 109 of the state report continues to elaborate that, a person affected by mental disorders cannot be hospitalised without his consent except where it is impossible to obtain an informed consent or if the state of mental health of the person concerned requires urgent care or threatens his security or the security of others. The restriction of his freedom is strictly limited to the measures required by his state of health and his treatment. The person concerned should be informed, in any case, immediately on his admission or, as soon as his state permits it, of his legal situation and of all his rights. He can communicate with the public health medical inspectors or with the legal authorities, send out or receive personal mail, contact the members of his family or contact the regional mental health committee responsible for examining the situation of hospitalised persons while maintaining respect for individual freedoms and human dignity. 56

While it seems that Tunisia has made many efforts to improve its legislation related to persons with disabilities, one can still see a very strong presence of the medical model approach.57 There is also a strong preference for specialised solutions (transport, school, and so on) and much less focus on ensuring full accessibility of mainstream services, notwithstanding a quite comprehensive accessibility strategy. There seems to be no understanding of the implications of article 12 of the CRPD and many references are made to certain rights being subject to the consent of guardians. 58

4.2 Does Tunisia have legislation that indirectly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the legislation and explain how the legislation addresses disability.
  • Article 4 of Tunisia’s state report focuses on article 5 of the Tunisian Constitution, which sanctions the inviolability of the human being and his protection against all violations of life. The law protects the right to life by means of criminal sanctions provided for by the Criminal Code, against all those who commit an offence against human life. 59

The legislator has reserved a special Code for the Child. Likewise, he has made provision in the Penal Code special provisions governing the issue of the physically disabled, the elderly and vulnerable persons. 60

  • Article 4 of the African Charter stipulates that (the human being is inviolable), that (every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person) and that (no one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right). 61

5 Decisions of courts and tribunals

5.1 Have the courts (or tribunals) in Tunisia ever decided on an issue(s) relating to disability? If so, list the cases and provide a summary for each of the cases with the facts, the decision(s) and the reasoning.

See 2.4.

6 Policies and programmes

6.1 Does Tunisia have policies or programmes that directly address disability? If so, list each policy and explain how the policy addresses disability.

Tunisia has programmes that directly address disability, including:

  • The Working Group on Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities, which originated as a Focal Point, was established by the adoption of Resolution 118 at the 42nd Ordinary Session held in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo from 15-28 November 2007.

Resolution 143 of the 45th Ordinary Session (Banjul, The Gambia - May 2009) extended the mandate of the group by establishing a Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities, with the mandate to:

  • hold comprehensive brainstorming sessions to articulate the rights of older persons and people with disabilities;
  • draft a Concept Paper for consideration by the African Commission that will serve as a basis for the adoption of the Draft Protocol on Ageing and People with Disabilities;
  • facilitate and expedite comparative research on the various aspects of human rights of older persons and people with disabilities on the continent, including their socio-economic rights;
  • collect data on older persons and people with disabilities to ensure proper mainstreaming of their rights in the policies and development programmes of member states;
  • identify good practices to be replicated in member states; and
  • submit a detailed Report to the African Commission at each Ordinary Session. 62

In regard to government programmes and policies, the Tunisian Constitution:

  • Guarantees at least one approach to equality against disability; 63
  • Children with disabilities have a general right to education; 64
  • There is no relevant provision for protection from discrimination at work for persons with disabilities; 65
  • There is medium degree of integration in regard to inclusive education for children with disabilities;66
  • There are no financial benefits to families with disabled children;67 and
  • There is no financial support to low-income families with one severely disabled child. 68
6.2 Does Tunisia have policies and programmes that indirectly address disability? If so, list each policy and describe how the policy indirectly addresses disability.

See section 3.2. The Constitution of the Tunisian Republic prohibits discrimination on all grounds - including disability - so all national policies and programmes prohibit this as well.

7 Disability bodies

7.1 Other than the ordinary courts and tribunals, does Tunisia have any official body that specifically addresses violations of the rights of people with disabilities? If so, describe the body, its functions and its powers.

Yes, Tunisia has official bodies that specifically address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities.

  • The government’s primary agency to investigate human rights violations and combat threats to human rights is the Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice, established after the October 2011 elections. 69
  • The High Committee for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is a government-funded agency charged with monitoring human rights. 70
  • The Ministry of Social Affairs is charged with protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. 71

There are a good number of references to Tunisian NGOs working for persons with disabilities as well as DPOs. However, it is not clear which of these NGOs are genuine DPOs governed by persons with disabilities. 72

7.2 Other than the ordinary courts or tribunals, does Tunisia have any official body that though not established to specifically address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, can nonetheless do so? If so, describe the body, its functions and its powers.

Yes, the Tunisian National Human Rights Institution works with Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) amongst other civil society groups to ensure its compliance with the Paris Principles; supporting the establishment of a transitional justice mechanism in accordance with international human rights standards to monitor and investigate human rights violations and promote accountability; strengthening national protection systems and support the development and monitoring of public policies for the protection of vulnerable groups including women, youth and migrants; and  ensuring increased compliance of UN human rights mechanisms and bodies (UPR, Treaty Bodies, and Special Procedures). The office has the mandate to protect and promote human rights. 73

8 National human rights institutions, Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman or Public Protector

8.1 Does Tunisia have a Human Rights Commission, an Ombudsman or Public Protector? If so, does its remit include the promotion and protection of the rights of people with disabilities? If your answer is yes, also indicate whether the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman or Public Protector of Tunisia has ever addressed issues relating to the rights of persons with disabilities.

Tunisia has an Administrative Ombudsman who has the role of receiving individual requests from citizens and from non-governmental organisations pertaining to the administrative problems encountered by the civil servants within the public service or against other officials; it is also empowered to submit proposals to the President of the Republic.74 In its report, there is no mention of people with disabilities.

In Tunisia, the Supreme Council on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is an autonomous body. One third is composed of representatives of Ministerial Departments and the other two thirds of independent persons. It can receive complaints and grievances from private individuals or non-governmental organisations, and can investigate claims of human rights violations, and submit proposals aimed at improving the law and the practice. It publishes an annual report on its activities and a national report on the human rights situation in the country. 75

9 Disabled peoples organisations (DPOs) and other civil society organisations

9.1 Does Tunisia have organisations that represent and advocate for the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities? If so, list each organisation and describe its activities.

Yes, Tunisia has organisations that advocate for rights and welfare of persons with disabilities. There are, in Tunisia, 87 associations working on the rights of the disabled, with 228 regional networks, and overseeing 269 specialised centres providing a number of educational, social, health and entertainment services.76 Countless activities to promote the principles embodied in the Convention were organised by associations concerned with disabilities and non-governmental organisations. Those associations and organisations made great contributions in that regard, including the promotion of the Convention at the conference organised in Tunis in 2009 by the Basma Association for the Promotion of the Employment of Persons with Disabilities, in cooperation with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.77 Some of the organisations are listed as follows:

Associations and organisations, which played an important role in disseminating awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and the Convention included: 78

  • Handicap International in Tunisia

The first activities Handicap International initiated in Tunisia began in 1992. In 1997, a partnership between HI and the Ministry for Social Affairs and Solidarity focused on winning the support of national and local decision-makers to ensure that people with disabilities were meaningfully represented in local and national policy. It also sets up initiatives to support disabled peoples' organisations, and to build the capacity of service providers to ensure more services are accessible to people with disabilities. 79

The Handicap International projects include:

  • Inclusive local development to promote the social inclusion of people with disabilities;
  • Promoting the meaningful participation of people with disabilities in the transition towards democracy in Tunisia;
  • Self-reliance and social inclusion: Fostering greater consideration of people with disabilities in local development efforts. These projects work towards improving the accessibility of services and general environment for people with disabilities living in the towns of Menzel Bourguiba and Bizerte to make the local environment a safer and easier environment to navigate for people with reduced mobility; To ensure that the voices of people with disabilities are heard and listened to at a time of significant political transition as well as promoting the full participation of disabled people across decision making process. HI is also working with service providers as well as national and local authorities to improve policies and develop new legislation that includes disability issues. Another area of support is the participation of people with disabilities in local development initiatives;
  • Handicap International Maghreb
  • El Imtiez

The oldest disability-related center in Tunis. It specialises in education for deaf children aged 3-15 who have recently received hearing aids. The center focuses on pre-school education and integration into standard schools, as well as vocational training for those who cannot be integrated; Le Centre pour les Handicaps Mentaux has students ranging from 6-30 years old, usually with rather severe mental disabilities. Its focus is on giving their students autonomy, and they provide several workshops on activities such as ceramics, sewing and woodworking with the hope that this will lead to employment;

  • Centre El Walid

Run by L’Association des Parents et Amis des HandicapésTunisiens (APAHT), has 197 students with ‘medium’ to ‘severe handicaps’. Unlike the other centres, which are public and funded by the government, parents of the students here have to pay an admission fee. The parents therefore almost entirely fund El Walid;

  • La Ferme Thérapeutique pour Handicapés

Using a hands-on approach to achieve professional and social integration, rather than integration in schools. It has 90 students, most of whom have mental disabilities, and is funded by donors and parents, in addition to the subsidies given by the Ministry of Social Affairs. 80

The Ministry of Social Affairs does not directly provide special education, but rather funds NGOs and associations who act as service providers;81

  • Save the Children Italy - Tunisie;
  • Basma Association for the Promotion of the Employment of Persons with Disabilities;
  • The National Union for the Blind;
  • The Tunisian Union for the Support of Persons with Mental Disabilities;
  • The Association of Persons with Motor Disabilities;
  • The Tunisian Organization of Mothers;
  • The Association for Home Care for Persons with Severe Disabilities;
  • The Tunisian Federation of Sports for Persons with Disabilities;
  • The Association of Tunisian Guardians and Friends of Persons with Disabilities;
  • The Association for the Support of Persons with Hearing Loss;
  • The Tunisian Association for the Welfare of the Deaf; 82
  • Les Anges (Ass parents handicapés lourds) ;
  • ATAS (NGO for PW deaf-disability);
  • AGIM (NGO for physical disability);
  • Organisation Tunisienne de Défense des Droits des Personnes Handicapées (OTDDPH) ;
  • The General Association for Persons with Motor Disabilities;
  • The Association of Persons with Severe Disabilities Living at Home;
  • The Tunisian Association for Multiple Sclerosis;
  • The Tunisian Muscular Dystrophy Association;
  • The Tunisian Angels Association for parents of children with severe and multiple mental disabilities; and
  • Voice of the Deaf Association of Tunisia.

The Government provides ongoing support to those organisations and encourages civil society to further disseminate awareness of the Convention and portray persons with mental disabilities in a positive light

9.2 In the countries in Tunisia’s region (North Africa) are DPOs organised/coordinated at national and/or regional level?

In the countries in Tunisia’s region, DPOs are coordinated at regional and national levels.

DPOs organised at regional level are:

  • Arab Organization of Persons with Disabilities (AOPD)

This is an independent non-profit organisation founded in 1998 in Cairo, Egypt. It is a regional organisation composed of DPOs operating in the different Arab Countries. AOPD’s main objectives are to promote the rights of people with disabilities, to empower people with disabilities and to represent Arab people with disabilities in the world at large. 83

  • Handicap International Maghreb

The Handicap International Maghreb programme’s main objectives are the structural improvement of living conditions, integration and full social participation of people with disabilities. 84

9.3 If Tunisia has ratified the CRPD, how has it ensured the involvement of DPOs in the implementation process?

See 9.1.

9.4 What types of actions have DPOs themselves taken to ensure that they are fully embedded in the process of implementation?

With reference to 9.1, international and national based organisations have partnered with Tunisian transitional government to implement the CRPD. DPOs work with these initiatives by raising awareness about disability, and carrying out data collection on prevalence of disabilities. 85

9.5 What, if any, are the barriers DPOs have faced in engaging with implementation?

The following barriers have been identified:

  • Education centres face serious staffing problems, both in quantitative and qualitative terms and the institutions are also out of reach for the students with disabilities.
  • The lack of high quality training of staff working in specialised centres naturally affects the results they produce.86
  • According to the African Commission, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) do not appear to be enjoying the various legislative measures put in place by Tunisia within the context of the implementation of the provisions laid down in the African Charter. 87
9.6 Are there specific instances that provide ‘best-practice models’ for ensuring proper involvement of DPOs?

Yes, there have been instances where DPOs have been involved in activities and programs geared towards enhancing social and political participation of persons with disabilities. This has been noted variously in the text.

9.7 Are there any specific outcomes regarding successful implementation and/or improved recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities that resulted from the engagement of DPOs in the implementation process?

Yes, there are specific outcomes regarding successful implementation and/or improved recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities.

The Collectiftunisien pour la promotion des droits des personnes en situation de handicap (CTPDPSH) (Tunisian Grouping to promote the rights of persons with disabilities) drew attention to the fact that, although Tunisia had adopted measures to encourage the integration of persons with disabilities, even before ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, these measures were little applied in practice. CTPDPSH also described some of the obstacles encountered by persons with disabilities when trying to gain access to buildings, public areas and means of transport, despite existing legislation; difficulties in integrating children with disabilities in the ordinary school system, and the failure to include the notion of ‘reasonable accommodation’ in the 2005 decree on the employment of persons with disabilities. 88

CTPDPSH recommended that Tunisia should include the principle of non-discrimination with respect to persons with disabilities in the new Constitution and that the rights of persons with disabilities should be made an integral part of development programmes; that the genuine participation of the persons with disabilities in all democratic institutions and in the devising and implementation of policy concerning them should be guaranteed; that the definition of disability and the conditions for issuing a disability card contained in Outline Act No 83-2005 should be revised; that the Guardianship and Trusteeship Act should be repealed and replaced with legislation on assisted decision-making; that legislative provisions on the occupational integration of persons with disabilities should be revised; that the necessary measures should be adopted to ensure the real application of its inclusive education strategy; and that the requisite funds should be raised to ensure that persons with disabilities can lead an independent life based on individual choice. 89

9.8 Has your research shown areas for capacity building and support (particularly in relation to research) for DPOs with respect to their engagement with the implementation process?

The concluding observations specifically note that a need for ‘awareness-raising’ about people with disabilities exists in Tunisia.90 DPOs could assist the state party in raising awareness by providing trainings and other resources and assistance.

9.9 Are there recommendations that come out of your research as to how DPOs might be more comprehensively empowered to take a leading role in the implementation processes of international or regional instruments?

DPOs can be empowered by:

  • Assisting in data collection;
  • Connecting state party bodies with people with disabilities seeking employment;
  • Providing training to local, national, and regional governmental bodies; and
  • Developing and implementing awareness-raising programming.
9.10 Are there specific research institutes in the region where Tunisia is situated (North Africa) that work on the rights of persons with disabilities and that have facilitated the involvement of DPOs in the process, including in research?

Yes, there are international and national research institutions involved with research on persons with disabilities. In the field of disability, several draft studies were launched in 2005 including research centres, laboratories, universities, ministries and associations concerned. In 2006, three studies were launched over a period of four years: improving the quality of life, identifying learning difficulties among children, and identifying biological and genetic factors causing mental retardation. Finally, in 2007, a scientific research unit responsible for the identification of deafness among newborns was created within the Institute for the Promotion of the Disabled. The following are some of the institutions:91

  • Institute for the Promotion of Disabled;
  • Nadi Al Bassar is a national non-governmental organisation dedicated to the prevention of blindness and restoration of sight; 92
  • Basma Association for the Promotion of Employment for the Disabled;93 and
  • Institute for the Promotion of the Handicapped.94

10 Government departments

10.1 Does Tunisia have a government department or departments that is/are specifically responsible for promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities? If so, describe the activities of the department(s).

The following Ministries and National Institutions specifically work towards promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities:

  • The Ministry of Youth, Sport and Physical Education created The Tunisian Sports Federation for the Disabled. It is responsible for sports for persons with disabilities and encompasses 153 sports clubs and associations with a membership of some 3825. As a result of the creation of this federation under the Ministry of Youth, Sport, and Physical Education, around 70 sports persons with disabilities won 21 medals, including nine gold medals, at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. 95
  • Centre Essanad (National Institute for poly and mental disabled)
  • Directeur Générale de l’Education Primaire, Ministère de l’Education (General Director of Primary Education, Ministry of Education)
  • Ministère de l’Education (Ministry of Education)
  • Ministère des Affaires de la Famille et de la Femme (Ministry of FamilyAfairs and Women)
  • Ecole de Santé Publique (School of Public Health)
  • Directeur Général de la Promotion Sociale, Ministère Affaires Sociales (Director General of Social Promotion, Social Affairs Ministry)
  • Chef Service Statistiques, Ministère des Affaires Sociales (Chief Service Statistics , Ministry of Social Affairs)
  • Ministère des Affaires Sociales (Ministry of Social Affairs) and
  • Ministère des Droits de l’Homme (Ministry of Human Rights).96

11 Main human rights concerns of people with disabilities in Tunisia

11.1 Describe the contemporary challenges of persons with disabilities, and the legal responses thereto, and assess the adequacy of these responses to:

Intervention of panellists pointed out the following challenges as pertains to political participation:

  • The common belief of voting as a highly rational and intellectual decision, and the need to eliminate deeply rooted stereotypes that currently prevent persons with intellectual disabilities from exercising their equal right to vote and be elected. 97
11.2 Do people with disabilities have a right to participation in political life (political representation and leadership) in Tunisia?

According to a report by the World Health Organization, 13,5 per cent of Tunisia’s approximately 11 million citizens over 18 years, the voting age, have a disability.

  • On July 8, the Tunisian Organization for the Defense of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ODRPWD), and IFES’ partnered in the effort to increase accessibility, and Handicap International organised a roundtable discussion about electoral participation and persons with disabilities.  
  • IFES Chief of Party in Tunisia Nicolas Kaczorowski spoke about measures that can be taken to facilitate the right to vote for persons with disabilities. The ODRPWD is the first Tunisian non-governmental organisation (NGO) managed by persons with disabilities that adopted a rights-based approach to advocacy. 98

During the October 2011 elections in Tunisia, barriers to effective electoral participation for persons with disabilities included:

  • Difficulties in accessing voter and civic information in accessible formats;
  • Lack of accessibility of some voting centres; insufficient training of polling officials;
  • Lack of awareness and interest of political parties in disability rights. 99
11.3 Are people with disabilities’ socio-economic rights, including the right to health, education and other social services protected and realised in Tunisia?

The socio-economic rights of persons with disabilities are not fully realised in Tunisia due to high level of illiteracy which played a significant role in the lack of awareness and understanding of rights, specifically in a patriarchal society, an upbringing founded on inequality, and the hegemony of a traditional cultural establishment based on the division of roles based on gender. The high level of illiteracy in the interior of the country was due to the fact that schools are very far from villages, especially in rural areas with harsh natural environments, in addition to poor families requiring assistance in farming and household chores, which pulls girls away from school. 100

A report that cut across Jordan, Palestine, Tunisia, Algeria and Lebanon, states that, the realities confronting people with disabilities (PWDs) in many Arab countries in relation to the right to work and education,101 indicate an absence of a descent physical environment that meets their special needs and an absence of appropriate social awareness and specialisation to interact with them as citizens, in addition to a minimal investment of their potential in society. This reality necessitates a reconsideration of public policies approaching issues of disability in its generality, and special needs specifically. The most prominent features which help establish a foundation to invest in the potential of persons with disabilities, lies in the removal of the social and material constraints, which hinder their integration in their local communities, starting from school and ending in the workplace, both in the private and public sector. 102

The articles listed below form Tunisia’s Constitution address health, education and employment of persons with disabilities.

  • Article 38: Health

Health is a right for every human being. The state shall guarantee preventative health care and treatment for every citizen and provide the means necessary to ensure the safety and quality of health services. 103

The state shall ensure free health care for those without means and those with limited income. It shall guarantee the right to social assistance in accordance with the law.

  • Article 39: Education

Education shall be mandatory up to the age of sixteen years.

The state guarantees the right to free public education at all levels and ensures provisions of the necessary resources to achieve a high quality of education, teaching, and training. It shall also work to consolidate the Arab-Muslim identity and national belonging in the young generations, and to strengthen, promote and generalise the use of the Arabic language and to openness to foreign languages, human civilisations and diffusion of the culture of human rights.

  • Article 40: Work

Work is a right for every citizen, male and female. The state shall take the necessary measures to guarantee work on the basis of competence and fairness.

All citizens, male and female, shall have the right to decent working conditions and to a fair wage.

  • Article 47: Children

Children are guaranteed the rights to dignity, health, care and education from their parents and the state.

The state must provide all types of protection to all children without discrimination and in accordance with their best interest.

  • Article 48: Persons with disabilities

The state shall protect persons with disabilities from all forms of discrimination. Every disabled citizen shall have the right to benefit, according to the nature of the disability, from all measures that will ensure their full integration into society, and the state shall take all necessary measures to achieve this.

11.4 Case studies of specific vulnerable groups
  • Indigenous persons

A new Constitution of the Tunisian Republic was enacted in 2014, despite lobbying by the ethnic-linguistic Amazigh minority for linguistic rights during the year, the new Constitution retains Arabic as the state language and stipulates the promotion by the state of Arabic and the Arab-Muslim identity. 104

  • People living in rural areas

According to UNICEF, 84 per cent of the rural population had access to drinking water compared to 99 per cent of the urban population in 2008.105 Moreover, 64 per cent of the rural population had access to health services compared to 96 per cent in urban areas.

12 Future perspective

12.1 Are there any specific measures with regard to persons with disabilities being debated or considered in Tunisia at the moment?

Yes, there have been interactive debates, which seek to identify good practices in the field of participation of persons with disabilities in elections and in the conduct of public affairs. It will also contribute to raising awareness of the challenges that persons with disabilities continue to face in the exercise of their political rights, with a view to considering possible measures to strengthen the participation of persons with disabilities in the political and public life of their countries. 106

Pursuant to resolution 16/15, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held its fourth interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities on 1 March 2012. The theme of 2012’s panel was participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life. States, inter-governmental organisations (IGOs), national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs), participated in the debate. 107

Ms Theresia Degener, rapporteur of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, focused her intervention on the jurisprudence elaborated by the Committee on the issue of political participation of persons with disabilities. She noted that in its concluding observations on Tunisia and Spain, the first ones ever adopted by the Committee, the Committee had recommended that relevant legislation be reviewed to ensure that all persons with disabilities had the right to vote and participate in public life on an equal basis with others, regardless of their impairment, legal status or place of residence. Ms Degener challenged the common belief of voting as a highly rational and intellectual decision, and concluded that time had come to eliminate deeply rooted stereotypes that currently prevent persons with intellectual disabilities from exercising their equal right to vote and be elected. 108

12.2 What legal reforms would you like to see in Tunisia? Why?

Tunisia should move towards implementing the CRPD to the fullest. Additional resources are needed by DPOs to help realise the goals of the CRPD. In addition, the gap between what the laws and the CRPD require and the reality on the ground, need to be closed so that people with disabilities in Tunisia will realise their goal as equal citizens in Tunisian society.


2. World Health Organization & The World Bank ‘World Report on Disability’ (2011) http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2011/9789240685215_eng.pdf?ua=1 (accessed 29 April 2015).

3. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ‘Implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Tunisia’ (14 July 2010).

4. Knoema ‘World Report on Disability, 2014’ http://knoema.com/WBRD2014/world-report-on-disability-2014?country=1001750-tunisia (accessed 29 April 2015).

5. n 3 above.

6. UNICEF Middle East and North Africa ‘A New Tunisia: An Inclusive Tunisia’ 30 March 2015 http://www.unicef.org/mena/media_10157.html (accessed 29 April 2015).

7. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ‘Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (10 November 2010).

8. UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ‘Tunisia - Programme Proposal “The new Tunisia won’t be built without us”’ (2012).

9. As above.

10. As above.

11. As above.

12. A Koné & L Korzekwa ‘Persons with disabilities in Tunisia: Legal standing and public perception’ (2014) Babel Initiative https://babelinitiative.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/viii-persons-with-disabilities.pdf (accessed 29 April 2015).

13. International Disability Alliance CRPD Reports (2011) http://www.internationaldisability alliance.org/en/crpd-reports-0 (accessed 30 April 2015).

14. UNESCO Periodic Report Tunisia (2012) https://en.unesco.org/creativity/periodic-reports/2012-45 (accessed 30 April 2015).

15. J Hatchard ‘Ratification of international and regional human rights instruments by African States (as at 1 November, 1992)’ (1992) 36 Journal of African Law 186.

16. International Disability Alliance ‘Submission on the List of Issues for Tunisia Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 4th Session’ (2010).

17. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights ‘42nd Ordinary Session: 15-28 November 2007: Congo’ (2007) http://www.achpr.org/sessions/42nd/ (accessed 30 April 2015).

18. As above.

19. As above.

20. African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights ‘Concluding observations and recommendations on the Consolidated Periodic Report (1995-2006) of the Republic of Tunisia’ (2006) http://www.achpr.org/files/sessions/42nd/conc-obs/4th-9th-1995-2006/achpr42_conc_staterep1_tunisia_2007_eng.pdf (accessed 3 June 2015).

21. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women ‘Consideration of reports submitted by states parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Tunisia’ (2 August 2000).

22. Policy Brief ‘Tunisia: Protecting freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information in the New Constitution’ (2012) http://www.article19.org/data/files/medialibrary/3013/12-04-03-ANAL-tunisia.pdf (accessed 6 May 2015).

23. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic (26 January 2014) trans Jasmine Foundation http://www. jasmine-foundation.org/doc/unofficial_english_translation_of_tunisian_constitution_final_ed.pdf (accessed 3 June 2015).

24. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ‘Implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Initial report submitted by states parties under article 35 of the Covenant: Tunisia’ 14 July 2014.

25. Knoema (n 4 above).

26. As above.

27. As above.

28. Tunisia’s Response to List of Issues (February, 2011) http://disabilitycouncilinternational.org/Africa-and-the-middle-East.php (accessed 25 September 2015).

29. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic (n 23 above).

30. As above.

31. As above.

32. As above.

33. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ‘Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Tunisia’ (13 May 2011).

34. As above.

35. As above.

36. As above.

37. International Service for Human Rights ‘Human Rights Monitor Quarterly’ (2011) http://www. ishr.ch/sites/default/files/hrm/files/new_hrmq_issue_3.pdf (accessed 30 April 2015).

38. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic, art 48 trans UNDP.

39. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic, art 21 trans UNDP.

40. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic, art 22 trans UNDP.

41. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic, art 23 trans UNDP.

42. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic, art 32 trans UNDP.

43. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic, art 38trans UNDP.

44. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic, art 40trans UNDP.

45. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic, art 46trans UNDP.

46. Constitution of the Tunisian Republic, art 47trans UNDP.

47. Koné & Korzekwa (n 12 above).

48. As above.

49. As above.

50. n 3 above.

51. n 3 above.

52. n 3 above.

53. n 3 above.

54. n 3 above.

55. n 3 above.

56. n 3 above.

57. Many references to prevention, the definition of persons with disabilities, the article on the right to health, the predominance of doctors on the regional disability commissions.

58. International Disability Alliance (n 16 above).

59. Koné & Korzekwa (n 12 above).

60. Koné & Korzekwa (n 12 above).

61. n 3 above.

62. African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights Working Group on Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities http://www.achpr.org/mechanisms/older-disabled/ (accessed 1 May 2015).

63. World Policy Forum: Tunisia http://worldpolicyforum.org/countries/tunisia/policies/disability (accessed 6 May 2015).

64. n 62 above.

65. n 62 above.

66. n 62 above.

67. n 62 above.

68. n 62 above.

70. n 68 above.

71. n 68 above.

72. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (n 17 above).

73. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ‘Report of the OHCHR Assessment Mission to Tunisia’ (2011) http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/TN/OHCHR_Assessment_Mission_to_Tunisia.pdf (accessed 1 May 2015).

74. Higher Committee for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Tunisia http://www. droitsdelhomme.org.tn/en/# (accessed 3 June 2015).

75. As above.

76. As above.

77. As above.

78. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (n 7 above).

79. African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights Working Group on Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities (n 62 above).

80. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (n 7 above).

81. As above.

82. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ‘Implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Initial report submitted by states parties under article 35 of the Covenant: Tunisia’ (14 July 2010).

83. International Disability Alliance ‘Our Members’ http://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/en/about-us/our-members (accessed 1 May 2015).

84. Handicap International Maghreb Program - Tunisia http://www.projet-mounassara.org/fr/qui-sommes-nous/programme-maghreb-hi.html (accessed 25 September 2015).

85. UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (n 8 above).

86. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (n 7 above).

87. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (n 17 above) .

88. Universal Periodic Review 13th Session (21 May-4 June 2012): Disability Analysis Reports http://www.humanrights.gov/dyn/universal-periodic-review---13th-session.html (accessed 30 September 2015

89. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (n 17 above).

90. n 33 above.

91. In 2003, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Solidarity and Tunisians Abroad conducted a comprehensive survey of disability in Tunisia. The data gathered on persons with disabilities were included in the general census, which is conducted every 10 years.United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (n 3 above).

92. LSchwab Eye care in Developing Nations (2007).

93. M Hejleh The country and people of Tunisia (2015) http://www.hejleh.com/countries/tunisia. html (accessed 1 May 2015).

94. As above.

95. n 4 above.

96. As above.

97. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ‘Fourth annual interactive debate of the Human Rights Council on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Interactive debate on participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life’ http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/Pages/politicalpubliclife.aspx (accessed 1 May 2015).

99. As above

100. Arab Watch on Economic and Social Rights ‘Right to Education Right to Work’ (2012) http://www.annd.org/english/data/publications/pdf/27.pdf (accessed 1 May 2015).

101. As above.

102. As above.

103. The Constitution of Tunisia (2014).

104. Minority Rights Group International ‘State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous People 2014 -Tunisia’ (3 July 2014) http://www.refworld.org/docid/53ba8dcd14.html (accessed 3 June 2015).

105. Manara Network for Child Rights ‘Country Profile of Tunisia’ (2011) http://www.addc.org.au/documents/resources/20110801-implementation-of-un-crc-tunisia-country-profile_743.pdf (accessed 3 June 2015).

106. HRC 19th Session Concept Note: Interactive Debate of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

107. United Nations Human Rights: Office of the High commissioner for Human Rights: Fourth annual interactive debate of the Human Rights Council on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/Pages/politicalpubliclife.aspx (accessed 25 September 2015).

108. n 107 above


  • Simangele Daisy Mavundla
  • PhD candidate ‒ College of Law and Management University of Kwazulu-Natal, LLM (University of Pretoria), LLB (University of Swaziland).

  • SD Mavundla ‘Country report: Swaziland’ (2015) 3 African Disability Rights Yearbook 245-264
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2413-7138/2015/v3n1a11
  • Download article in PDF

1 Population indicators

1.1 What is the total population of Swaziland?

According to the 2007 Population and Housing Census there are 481 428 males and 537 021 females which puts the total number of the population in Swaziland at 1 018 449.1

1.2 Describe the methodology used to obtain the statistical data on the prevalence of disability in Swaziland. What criteria are used to determine who falls within the class of persons with disabilities in Swaziland?

Qualitative data was sought from the 1986, 1997 and 2007 National Census, through the Central Statistics Office (CSO).2 The 2007 Census categorises the types of disability in the following terms: seeing, hearing, speaking, walking or climbing, remembering or concentrating, and other.3

1.3 What is the total number and percentage of persons with disabilities in Swaziland?

People with disabilities in Swaziland are estimated to be at 171 347.4 Accordingly, people with disabilities accounts for 16,8 per cent of the country’s population.5

Of note is that the prevalence of disability in Swaziland is higher than the average found in other developing countries (which is at 10 per cent of the total population).6 The prevalence of disability is much higher in rural areas. Eighty-two per cent of people with disabilities live in rural areas whilst the remaining 18 per cent live in urban areas.7

1.4 What is the total number and percentage of women with disabilities in Swaziland?

Out of the total population (117 347) with disabilities 58 per cent (98 902) when disaggregated by sex are women with disabilities and 42 per cent (72 445) are men with disabilities.8

1.5 What is the total number and percentage of children with disabilities in Swaziland?

The Census of 2007 disaggregate incidence of disability by age and for the age group of 0-4 there were 4238 children with disabilities; for the age group 5-9 there 8457 children with disability; for the age group 10-14, there were 10424 children with disabilities and for the age group 15-19 there were 9323 children with disabilities.9 The incidence of disability is greatest amongst children, especially between 5 and 14 years, suggesting a strong link between the conditions in which the majority of young children live and the incidence of disability.

According to the 2007 Census, the population of children with disability within the age range of 0-19 is 32442 (19 per cent).

1.6 What are the most prevalent forms of disability and/or peculiarities to disability in Swaziland?

The most prevalent form of disability in Swaziland is seeing disabilities followed by people with other disabilities.10 Out of the 171347 people with disabilities in Swaziland, 78 083 (46 per cent) have seeing disabilities followed by a group classified as other forms of disabilities at 47 691 (28 per cent).11 People with hearing disabilities are 18 389 (11 per cent), while people having remembering/concentrating disabilities are 6 832 (4 per cent).12 People with walking/climbing disabilities are 17 486 (10 per cent) and those with speaking disabilities are only 2 666 (2 per cent).13

 

2 Swaziland’s international obligations

2.1 What is the status of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Swaziland? Did Swaziland sign and ratify the CRPD? Provide the date(s).

The Kingdom of Swaziland became a signatory in 2007 and ratified the Convention on 24 September 2012. Swaziland has also ratified the treaty's Optional Protocol which permits the filing of individual complaints under the treaty by its residents.14

2.2 If Swaziland has signed and ratified the CRPD, when was its country report due? Which government department is responsible for submission of the report? Did Swaziland submit its report? If so, and if the report has been considered, indicate if there was a domestic effect of this reporting process. If not, what reasons does the relevant government department give for the delay?

The country’s initial report under the CRPD according to the official website was due in October 2014. The Deputy Prime Minister’s Office houses the Disability Unit which is under the social welfare department. However, according to the Disability Unit Programmes Manager,15 the country is not engaged in the process of drafting the state party report due to the fact that they have not received from the treaty body an invitation to write and present the state report.

2.3 While reporting under various other United Nations’ instruments, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, or the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, did Swaziland also report specifically on the rights of persons with disabilities in its most recent reports? If so, were relevant ‘concluding observations’ adopted? If relevant, were these observations given effect to? Was mention made of disability rights in your state’s UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR)? If so, what was the effect of these observations/recommendations?

In the UN Universal Periodic Review on 12 December 201116 Swaziland reported signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Further, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation revealed that his office conducted training for members of Parliament on, amongst other instruments, the CRPD, and that instrument has been tabled before Parliament for ratification. Further, the Government is considering becoming party to all outstanding international human rights treaties.17

Lesotho commended the country’s determination to address the rights of persons with disabilities and stated that the policies of Swaziland in this regard were appreciated. Uganda noted with appreciation that the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and persons with disabilities, were exempt from paying hospital charges.18

Spain, Portugal and Argentina recommended that Swaziland conclude the process of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,19 the country has ratified accordingly. Ghana recommended that Swaziland must take further action to remove societal discrimination against children with disabilities, street children and children living in rural areas.20

Swaziland has not been reporting diligently under international as well as regional treaty bodies. In 2011 at the UN UPR, Swaziland acknowledged that the state had not met its reporting obligations under the international human rights instruments. For that reason, Swaziland requested technical assistance and capacity-building in the areas of treaty body reporting and following up on concluding observations and recommendations of special procedures and mechanisms of the United Nations, including national monitoring of the implementation of international human rights instruments.21

On the state report submitted to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Committee in 2006, the following was observed on the rights and welfare of children with disabilities:

Children with disabilities are not mainstreamed and there are few special schools inadequately meeting the needs of such children. Even those schools offering integrated education are physically unfriendly to children with disabilities, with no ramps and other facilities for physically disabled children. Sensory impaired children require urgent attention as there are no Braille facilities in schools and few individuals are trained in sign-language. This also hinders speech and hearing impaired children from accessing health services. Children with hearing disabilities are excluded from the education system from the secondary level. Children who are blind are excluded from tertiary institutions as these lack facilities catering to their needs.22

The Committee also raised concerns over the fact that there is no integrated policy for children with disabilities, including those which relate to the provision of health, education and sporting facilities and the physical environment. This results in discrimination and limits the opportunities available to disabled children.23 The Committee further noted that inadequate allocation of resources for the specialised needs of disabled children excludes them from health and educational facilities.24

Swaziland is yet to report under the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

2.4 Was there any domestic effect on Swaziland’s legal system after ratifying the international or regional instruments in 2.3 above? Does the international or regional instrument that has been ratified require Swaziland’s legislature to incorporate it into the legal system before the instrument can have force in Swaziland’s domestic law? Have Swaziland’s courts ever considered this question? If so, cite the case(s).

Swaziland follows the dualist approach to the acceptance of international laws into municipal law. For international instruments to be domesticated in Swaziland parliament’s endorsement is required according to section 238 of the Constitution. Section 238 provides as follows:

(2) An international agreement executed by or under the authority of the Government shall be subject to ratification and become binding on the government by -

(a) an Act of Parliament; or

(b) a resolution of at least two-thirds of the members at a joint sitting of the two Chambers of Parliament.

The parliament of Swaziland in July 2013 adopted the CRPD and courts are now in a position to make reference to the CRPD.

  • Case Law

No case law on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities has as yet come before the courts of Swaziland.

2.5 With reference to 2.4 above, has the CRPD or any other ratified international instrument been domesticated? Provide details.

Subsequent to the ratification of the CRPD, the country adopted the National Policy on Disability and it has been followed by the drafting of the Persons with Disability Bill of 2014 which is awaiting enactment into an Act.25

3 Constitution

3.1 Does the Constitution of Swaziland contain provisions that directly address disability? If so, list the provisions, and explain how each provision addresses disability.

The Constitution of Swaziland26 contains provisions that directly address disability. Section 14, a clause on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, provides for disability in 14(1)(e) and 14(3). The provisions prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.

Similarly section 20 provides for equality before the law.

Section 30 provides for the rights of persons with disabilities as follows:

30. (1) Persons with disabilities have a right to respect and human dignity and the Government and society shall take appropriate measures to ensure that those persons realise their full mental and physical potential.

(2) Parliament shall enact laws for the protection of persons with disabilities so as to enable those persons to enjoy productive and fulfilling lives.

3.2 Does the Constitution of Swaziland contain provisions that indirectly address disability? If so, list the provisions and explain how each provision indirectly addresses disability.

The Constitution addresses the issue of marginalised groups. In this regard see section 60(4) and 95(2)(a) and (b). 

4 Legislation

4.1 Does Swaziland have legislation that directly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the legislation and explain how the legislation addresses disability.

There are important legislation which the government of Swaziland has enacted or is in the process of enacting which address disability and are as follows:

(i) The Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 which caters for the general well-being of persons with disabilities. 27 The Bill proposes the establishment of a National Committee for Persons with Disabilities. The objectives of the Committee are:

(a) improve the socio-economic status of men and women, girls and boys with disabilities;

(b) ensure that all persons with disabilities have equal access and opportunities to education, health and other services at all levels;

(c) ensure that all buildings and infrastructure are accessible to persons with disabilities;

(d) promote inclusiveness and ensure that all institutions provide services to persons with disabilities in the same manner as they provide to the non-disabled except where necessary;

(e) ensure that policies in general do not have a negative impact on the status of persons with disabilities, and in particular vulnerable groups.

The Bill further covers registration of organisations of persons with disabilities as well as registration of a person with disability, who will then be issued with a Disability Card.28 The Bill further makes provision for the right to assistance in situation of risk and humanitarian emergencies, including armed conflicts and the occurrence of natural disasters as well as, access to public facilities, amenities and services and buildings for persons with disabilities.29 The Bill further provide persons with disabilities with the right to access to and use of transport facilities as well as the right to the enjoyment of health on an equal basis with persons without disabilities.30

(i) Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 in part 2, section 4 provides that ‘a child shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of ... disability ...’ Furthermore, section 11 states that:

a child with disability has a right to special care, medical treatment, rehabilitation, family and personal integrity, sports and recreation, education and training to help him enjoy a full and decent life and dignity and achieve the greatest degree of self- actualization, self-reliance and social integration possible.

4.2 Does Swaziland have legislation that indirectly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the main legislation and explain how the legislation relates to disability.

The Employment Act of 1980 as amended provides for the prohibition of the termination of employment of an employee unfairly and according to section 35(3)(e) and (f); an employer is prohibited from terminating an employee’s services due to an accident or injury arising out of his employment.

5 Decisions of courts and tribunals

5.1 Have the courts (or tribunals) in Swaziland ever decided on an issue(s) relating to disability? If so, list the cases and provide a summary for each of the cases with the facts, the decision(s) and the reasoning.

The Courts and Tribunals in the country as yet have not decided on issues of disability rights.

6 Policies and programmes

6.1 Does Swaziland have policies or programmes that directly address disability? If so, list each policy and explain how the policy addresses disability.

There are several policy frameworks which the government of Swaziland has put in place to address disability and they are:

  • National Development Strategy (NDS) August 1999;
  • National population policy framework for Swaziland 2002;
  • National Education Policy 1999; and
  • National Disability Policy June 2013.

The National Development Strategy (NDS) in 4.8.2.1 includes persons with disabilities amongst the disadvantaged groups and the government of Swaziland has adopted strategies in addressing issues of PWDs Swaziland. The strategy recommends measures to improve the situation of PWDs as follows:

  • Integration and Awareness: The policy aims to integrate PWDs into economic and social activities; ensure the integration of programmes for persons with disabilities into mainstream education; provide infra-structure for rehabilitation for those who cannot be integrated. Institutions catering for disable people (for example, school for the blind, deaf and vocational training) must be expanded to cater for the existing and expected demand; create institutional and policy mechanisms through which persons with disabilities can be rehabilitated and integrated effectively with the rest of society; and raise awareness on how to prevent the various forms of disabilities.
  • Equity: The NDS further calls for the enactment of legislation to protect the disadvantaged groups from abuse and discrimination; ensuring that all infra-structural designs are inclusive of the needs of persons with disabilities; introducing measures that will support the operations of NGOs to help specific groups; and enacting legislation to ensure equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.

The Population Policy in thematic area six and eight31 adopts strategies for the addressing issues of PWDs Swaziland. These include, the establishment of a National Unit/framework to deal with issues of persons with disabilities; strengthening and expansion of activities to integrate persons with disabilities into mainstream society; developing a national programme to deal with issues of disability, including improving the capacity for testing and early detection of disabilities and the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities; improving the enforcement of laws and regulations on safety standards; discouraging cultural practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities; improving access to social and public services including transport for persons with disabilities; sensitising the public on issues concerning persons with disabilities; and empowering communities and extended families to care for persons with disabilities.

The 1999 National Education Policy is the official policy of the Ministry of Education and is based on the overall objective of

the provision of opportunities for all pupils of school-going age and adults to develop themselves in order to improve the quality of their own lives and the standard of living of their communities.

Section 5 of the Education Policy specifically addresses special needs. The policy aims at including children with disabilities in the mainstream school system. Section 5.3 of the policy states that:

The Ministry of Education shall facilitate access to education for all learners with disabilities by improving the infrastructure to make it user-friendly from basic through tertiary level [and] shall support the integration and inclusion of children with special learning needs in the Education System.

The 2013 National Disability Policy’s vision envisages a Swaziland where persons with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate freely as equal partners in society and be empowered to realise their full potential in all spheres of life without discrimination. The policy’s goal is to promote and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities. The National Disability Policy adopts the following objectives:

  • To improve the socio-economic status of men and women, boys and girls with disabilities.
  • To ensure that all persons with disability have equal access and opportunities to education and health services at all levels.
  • To ensure that all buildings and infrastructure are accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • To promote inclusiveness and ensure that all institutions provide services to persons with disabilities in the same manner as they provide to the non-disabled except where necessary.
6.2 Does Swaziland have policies and programmes that indirectly address disability? If so, list each policy and describe how the policy indirectly addresses disability.

The National Youth Policy32 serves as a guideline for government’s engagement with the youth in the country and one of its objectives is to

provide an enabling environment for the youths development so as to enhance sustainable development by ensuring that young people have access to adequate and appropriate programmes and services regardless of their geographic location, race, gender, level of disability and social, religious and economic circumstances.

The Swaziland National Sports Policy provides for the promotion and identification of persons with disabilities in sports, ‘all sports and recreational facilities shall ensure that they meet disability standards’ and ‘all sports associations must have disability sections within each of their sporting codes’.

Other national policy documents alluding to the rights and recognition of persons with disabilities include the National Social Development Policy, the National Children’s policy.

7 Disability bodies

7.1 Other than the ordinary courts and tribunals, does Swaziland have any official body that specifically addresses violations of the rights of people with disabilities? If so, describe the body, its functions and its powers.

In Swaziland there is as yet no body that specifically addresses violation of the rights of persons with disabilities.

7.2 Other than the ordinary courts or tribunals, does Swaziland have any official body that though not established to specifically address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, can nonetheless do so? If so, describe the body, its functions and its powers.

The 2005 Constitution provides for the establishment of the Swaziland Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration/Integrity (SCHRPA). Since its establishment the Commission for Human Rights has not been functional due to lack of funding. The Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration/Integrity (SCHRPA)’s adopted its first Strategic Plan for the year 2013-2017 in 2012.33

8 National human rights institutions, Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman or Public Protector

8.1 Does Swaziland have a Human Rights Commission, an Ombudsman or Public Protector? If so, does its remit include the promotion and protection of the rights of people with disabilities? If your answer is yes, also indicate whether the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman or Public Protector of Swaziland has ever addressed issues relating to the rights of persons with disabilities.

Part 2 of the 2005 Constitution provides for the establishment of the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration (SCHRPA). The functions of SCHRPA as set out in the Constitution, include the duty to investigate complaints of violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms, injustice, corruption, abuse of power and unfair treatment of any person by a public official in the exercise of his duties.34 The SCHRPA also has the duty to take appropriate action for the remedying, correction or reversal of violation of human rights; publicising the findings and recommendations. Furthermore, SCHRPA has the duty to promote fair, efficient and good governance in public affairs and to promote and foster strict adherence to the rule of law and principles of natural justice in public administration.

It must be noted that though the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration does not explicitly include addressing violation of disability rights, it is inferred that human rights cut across the board and therefore complaints of violation of disability rights will be addressed by the Commission once it is operational.

9 Disabled peoples organisations (DPOs) and other civil society organisations

9.1 Does Swaziland have organisations that represent and advocate for the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities? If so, list each organisation and describe its activities.

There are a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that represent and advocate for the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities and are as follows:

(a) The Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations in Swaziland (CANGO) which is an umbrella body for all NGOs, including those with disabilities initiatives;

(b) The Federation of organisations of the Disabled in Swaziland (FODSWA) is a human- rights oriented coordinating body of DPOs. It was formed in 1993 by organisations of people with disabilities in Swaziland due to lack of coordination of their activities;

(c) Save the Children, an organisation which advocates for the promotion of all children’s rights, including those with disabilities;

(d) Cheshire Homes of Swaziland which focuses on the rehabilitation of persons with physical disabilities;

(e) St Joseph’s Catholic Mission which houses Ekululameni Training Centre - an initiative that provides vocational training to persons with disabilities over 18 years; and

(f) Organisations of persons with disabilities - they offer advocacy and development work aimed at empowering persons with disabilities. They are as follows:

  • Swaziland National Association of the Deaf (SNAD);
  • Swaziland Association of Visually Impaired Persons (SAVIP);
  • Parents of Children with Disabilities in Swaziland (PCDSWA); and
  • Swaziland National Association of the Physically Disabled Persons (SNAPDPe).
9.2 In the countries in Swaziland’s region (Southern Africa) are DPOs organised/coordinated at national and/or regional level?

In the Southern Africa region, DPOs are organised at national level as there are established bodies known as Federations of Persons with Disabilities and at regional level through the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD).

9.3 If Swaziland has ratified the CRPD, how has it ensured the involvement of DPOs in the implementation process?

The Kingdom of Swaziland ratified the CRPD on 24 September 2012 which is fairly recent, however, if the drafting of the Disability Policy of 2013 is anything to go by, it can be said that DPOs will in future participate in the implementation of the CRPD. The process adopted for drafting the Disability Policy was participatory, with the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office seeking collaboration from other line government ministries, NGOs, the private sector (culminating in a consultative workshop at the Happy Valley Resort at Ezulwini from 24-28 September 2012).35 The views and representations of all those who participated and contributed in any way were taken into consideration in the formulation of the policy.36 A similar process was adopted in the drafting of the Persons with Disability Bill of 2014 where DPOs were playing an advisory role - working in collaboration with the Disability Unit to craft the Draft Bill.37

9.4 What types of actions have DPOs themselves taken to ensure that they are fully embedded in the process of implementation?

DPOs have been instrumental in calling government to ratify the CRPD; it is believed that the NGOs in Swaziland have been lobbying government to enact the law on the rights of persons with disabilities since the Swaziland Constitution of 2005 came into force. Their efforts forced government to look into the issue and as a result there is the first draft of the Persons with Disabilities Bill of 2014.

9.5 What, if any, are the barriers DPOs have faced in engaging with implementation?

The main challenge is that DPOs must work in collaboration with government as most of the laws and policies oblige and/or recommend strategies for government’s implementation in addressing issues of people with disabilities in Swaziland and yet government is seen to lack sufficient political will and/or resources when it comes to implementation of laws, policies and domestication of international instruments.38

Another point is lack of funding and technical skills on the part of DPOs which is necessary for a robust activism on their part.

9.6 Are there specific instances that provide ‘best-practice models’ for ensuring proper involvement of DPOs?

Since the ratification of the Convention in 2012, the DPOs in Swaziland have collaborated with the government in matters of common interest while maintaining their individuality in matters where there is limited consensus. That can be viewed as a best practice as government needs DPOs expertise in certain matters and DPOs need government’s intervention in matters dealing with legislation hence the need for a good working relationship between the two.

9.7 Are there any specific outcomes regarding successful implementation and/or improved recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities that resulted from the engagement of DPOs in the implementation process?

The evidence shows full participation and/or collaboration between DPOs and government in the implementation of the Convention of Persons with Disabilities in the country. The collaboration resulted in the finalisation of the 2013 Disability Policy which provides guidelines for the improvement of programmes addressing the rights and welfare of disabled persons and the Persons with Disabilities Bill of 2014 which is now with Cabinet. There are consultations currently underway between the Disability Unit and DPOs on the drafting of the National Plan of Action (which is expected to be finalised in 2015) meant for the effective implementation of the Disability Policy.

9.8 Has your research shown areas for capacity building and support (particularly in relation to research) for DPOs with respect to their engagement with the implementation process?

People with disabilities in Swaziland have over the years been at the receiving end of government developmental processes and service delivery, hence it is necessary that persons with disabilities be emancipated enough to be agents of their own course. DPOs have to contribute to the implementation of the Convention as well as the legislation that will promote their rights, hence there is a need to train DPOs on disability rights and human rights programming.

9.9 Are there recommendations that come out of your research as to how DPOs might be more comprehensively empowered to take a leading role in the implementation processes of international or regional instruments?
  • DPOs need technical expertise on disability issues, hence DPOs require intensive education on the provisions of the international, regional and national legal framework protecting and promoting their rights.
  • A majority of DPOs would benefit from training on the implementation processes, the monitoring, and the preparation of country reports and or shadow reports; as well as on the role DPOs have to play.
  • FODSWA recommended that simplified copies of the relevant legal framework on the promotion and protection of disability rights should be made available to facilitate easy reading and understanding.39
  • DPOs lack financial support for their programmes and have limited human resources hence, it is recommended that DPOs be supported financially by funding entities both locally and internationally.
  • Since disability is a highly technical and dynamic field which requires the necessary expertise for it to be adequately addressed; it is recommended that tertiary institutions like the University of Swaziland and the Government department spearheading issues of disability in the country establish a research centre that will conduct in-depth research into disability issues so as to build evidence necessary for future programmes.
9.10 Are there specific research institutes in the region where Swaziland is situated (Southern Africa) that work on the rights of persons with disabilities and that have facilitated the involvement of DPOs in the process, including in research?

The research has revealed that two research projects have been carried out locally to promote the rights of PWDs. For instance, the Federation of Persons with Disability in Swaziland (FODSWA) revealed that in 2011 they had collaborated with Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) at regional level in conducting a research on ‘Living conditions among people with disabilities in Swaziland - A national representative study’.40 UNICEF assisted the government in conducting the ‘Situation assessment of children and young persons with disabilities in Swaziland: Key findings’ (December 2010).41

Also, the research has led to two other research projects done by international institutions on Swaziland and these are:

The Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre University College London conducted a study in 2008 on the topic, ‘Disability policy audit in Namibia, Swaziland, Malawi and Mozambique’.

The Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities (SADPD) conducted a study in 2012 on the topic ‘Study on education for children with disabilities in Southern Africa’.

10 Government departments

10.1 Does Swaziland have a government department or departments that is/are specifically responsible for promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities? If so, describe the activities of the department(s).

A Community-Based Rehabilitation Programme was established in 1990 which was later upgraded to a National Disability Unit in 2000. The National Disability Unit was first housed by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.42 In 2008, the Unit was transferred to the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office under the Department of Social Welfare.43 The mission statement of the Disability Unit is: ‘[T]o champion significant improvement in the quality of life for persons with disabilities’.

Some of the Unit’s core activities include:

  • Awareness raising on disabilities;
  • Policy development;
  • Advocacy for political commitment; and
  • Review of discriminatory legislation, amongst others.

11 Main human rights concerns of people with disabilities in Swaziland

11.1 Describe the contemporary challenges of persons with disabilities, and the legal responses thereto, and assess the adequacy of these responses to:
  • Challenges

Some Swazis still hold the general belief that those who have a disability are bewitched or inflicted by bad spirits.44 Many believe that being around people with disabilities can bring bad luck. As a result, many people with disabilities are hidden in their homesteads and are not given an opportunity to participate and contribute to society. The Swaziland National Census of 2007 also recognises that the majority of people with disabilities are poor and marginalised with little to no access to services such as public transport, employment and education. People with disabilities are also especially vulnerable to abuse and HIV and AIDS.45

  • Education

Even though rhetorically the country promotes education as a basic human right and ensures that males and females receive equal treatment and benefits at all levels,46 the integration of persons with disabilities into the mainstream of the education system has not been realised so far. A situation assessment of children and young persons with disabilities conducted by the Deputy Prime Minister’s (DPMs) office in 2010, reported that the net school attendance ratio was 92 per cent for primary school level and 15 per cent for secondary school level (this refers to the percentage of primary school children with disabilities aged 6-12 years and secondary school children with disabilities aged 13-17 years that are attending school).47 However, the government’s National Children’s Coordination Unit (NCCU) responsible for launching the National Plan of Action for Children, reported that 50 per cent of disabled children 10 years and older had no access to education, 33 per cent had some form of primary education and only 15 per cent had post primary education.48 In the 2007 Census 26 per cent of the disabled people reached secondary-level education; however, only 3,5 per cent gained access to colleges, and 2 per cent to University.49 The provision of education for people with disabilities has been limited.50 There are no equal opportunities for the blind and deaf; as a result they are being left behind. Even though this situation may not be intentional there are insufficient trained personnel such as teachers to ensure disabled persons with visual and hearing impairments progress in the education system.

This is despite the fact that the 2005 Constitution guarantees the right to free primary education for every Swazi child. The Constitution provides as follows:

Every Swazi child shall within three years of the commencement of this Constitution have the right to free education in public schools at least up to the end of primary school, beginning with the first grade.51

According to Methula,52 when it comes to education for persons with disabilities, there is still room for improvement as the blind and deaf are being left behind. The dire need for trained personnel is evidenced by the fact that all school for the deaf students who sat for the National Junior certificate failed the exam. The entire class of 2014 failed.53

Education is a corner stone of development hence there is a need to vigorously lobby government to do something in ensuring that learners with disabilities achieve a 100 per cent pass rate in the future. Without the much needed education and PWDs will continue to be marginalised.

  • Health

The Constitution of Swaziland provides for the right to health under social objectives found in the directive principles of state in section 60. It provides as follows:

(8) Without compromising quality the State shall promote free and compulsory basic education for all and shall take all practical measures to ensure the provision of basic health care services to the population.

This entails that the state will take progressive steps to ensure that health facilities, goods and services have to be accessible to everyone without unfair discrimination. This includes physical accessibility (affordability and information accessibility).54

Access to health care by people with disabilities is available but is associated with challenges. For example according to the 2010 situation assessment of children and young persons with disabilities in Swaziland report, 27 per cent of young people with disabilities who needed treatment, were receiving it, yet 58 per cent reported that they required treatment but were not receiving it.55

The hospitals (particularly government hospitals) in Swaziland are found in urban areas, making it difficult for those in rural areas to access them. The hospitals are also not well equipped to attend to those with visual and hearing impairments. The nurses are not adequately trained to address the health needs of people with disabilities.56 Most health centres have not made appropriate adjustments that would allow access to people with physical disabilities. In some cases where adjustments have been made the work undertaken was inadequate. Similarly, the public transportation system of the country does not cater for those in wheelchairs or crutches.

It must be noted that the Department of Social Welfare administers a public assistance programme, which provides means-tested benefits to the needy or destitute in the country.57 Those who benefit are mainly the elderly, widows, persons with disabilities and those who are terminally ill. Assistance ranges from E40.00 to E65.0058 per month and is usually paid out on a quarterly basis. Social workers estimate that about 40 per cent of the population is needy and yet less than 10 per cent are eligible to access this programme.59

However, according to the President of Federation of Persons with Disabilities in Swaziland (FODSWA), Mr Methula, the hospitals in Swaziland are not well equipped to attend to those who visual and hearing impairments. Nursing personnel are not trained to address the health needs of the disabled in this regards hence there is need on the part of DPOs to advocate that government train them in consultation with the DPOs.

All is not well when it comes to the issue of packaging medicine and/or pills for the visually impaired as they cannot be differentiated by touch exposing them to the danger of taking the wrong doses of medication.

Wheelchair users or those who use crutches do not have easy access to health centres as most of them have staircases and for the centres that have off ramps, the ramps are usually built inaccurately as some are really steep to afford a wheelchair easy and safe passage.

  • Employment

The country provides for citizens employment in the Constitution under the economic objectives. It provides as follows:

The State shall take all necessary action to ensure that the national economy is managed in such a manner as to maximise the rate of economic development and to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every person in Swaziland and to provide adequate means of livelihood and suitable employment and public assistance to the needy.60

Access to employment for PWDs is severely curtailed, with a reported 83,7 per cent being economically inactive; 4 per cent unemployed, and 12,3 per cent employed.61 People with sight- and hearing-related disabilities face obstacles related to labour market participation. There is a perception that a person who cannot talk or see cannot work.62 However, as indicated above PWDs do obtain employment particularly in the private sector.

It was reported that the public service employs around 1,1 per cent of the disabled persons63 whereas; the private sector employs 16,2 per cent. However, 39,5 per cent of the disabled are reported to be employed in family farm/business; whereas, 10,2 per cent are self-employed and 33 per cent are employers.64 Due to the fact that the disabled are under employed, disabled persons in the country suffer more poverty than the rest of the marginalised groups.

Mr Methula was of the idea that those with visual and hearing impairments have little access to employment as there are perceptions in the country to the effect that a person who cannot talk or see cannot work, yet there are many vacancies out there which do not require talking or seeing to be executed. Those confined to wheelchairs are unable to work due to the perception that disabled people cannot do anything as well as places of employment do not have the requisite ramps necessary for their independent movement. Due to the fact that the disabled are under employed, disabled persons, in the country suffer more poverty than the rest of the marginalised groups.

The Department of Social Welfare also administers a public assistance programme which provides a means-tested benefit to the needy or destitute in the country.65 Those who benefit are mainly the elderly, and those who pass the means-test within the category of widows, PWDs and those who are terminally ill.66 It must be noted though that having a disability does not automatically qualifies one to have access to social security and a many disabled persons are not beneficiaries.

  • Access to justice

The right of access to justice is accorded to everyone living in Swaziland, however, when the visually and the hearing impaired want to vindicate their rights you find that communication is a barrier. Currently the government has employed two sign

language interpreters to service the courts in the country and they are based in Mbabane.67 Clearly this is not enough. Additionally, the laws of the country require that a victim positively identifies a suspect through identification parades and insists on the ascertainment of bodily features of the accused and clothes.68 These are permitted also under the common-law principles which receive evidence to the effect that a witness who identifies the accused in court has also identified him on a previous occasion.69 This does not cater for the visually impaired and as such the laws need to be reviewed to cater for other forms of identification other than sight.

Another point is that to access justice one needs a lawyer and lawyers’ services are not cheap in Swaziland; hence there is a need for a legal aid scheme to look at PWDs access to justice when they need to vindicate their rights in court.

When it comes to the Human Rights Commission of Swaziland, FODSWA have heard about it but there is not much interaction between the Commission and DPOs. There is no information passed to DPOs about it and on how they can assist persons with disabilities.

11.2 Do people with disabilities have a right to participation in political life (political representation and leadership) in Swaziland?

The 2005 Constitution guarantees the right to vote and to be voted for all persons without discrimination in section 85. Persons with disability have the right to participate in politics. However, accessing this right is often hampered by society’s perceptions or attitudes towards persons with disabilities. Over the years voters have shown little confidence in persons with disabilities, hence there have been very few persons with disability serving in top decision making positions. In the parliamentary term of 2008-2013, parliament appointed Mr Tom Mndzebele (a visually impaired Swazi) to be senator. In addition, in the 2013-2017 parliament a man from Kukhanyeni Inkhundla, with a disability, was elected to parliament. The political system in Swaziland does not support positive discrimination in favour of persons with disabilities through a quota system.70 Running for political office is based on merit and the individual with more votes will represent that community either in the portfolio of Member of Parliament or Indvuna yenkhundla or Bucopho. In the 2013 elections, for the portfolio of Indvuna yenkhundla four PWDs won and are now serving as constituency developers.

11.3 Are people with disabilities’ socio-economic rights, including the right to health, education and other social services protected and realised in your country?

See 11.1 above.

11.4 Case studies of specific vulnerable groups

The Constitution of Swaziland in section 84 provides for representation of marginalised groups within the Swazi society as follows:

(2) Without derogating from the generality of the foregoing subsection, the women of Swaziland and other marginalized groups have a right to equitable representation in Parliament and other public structures.

However, women and children are marginalised. It is desirable that these groups of people receive adequate protection from the law. In the case of Swaziland three categories of people are given special protection in the constitution and are women, children and disabled persons.

  • Women

As alluded to in 11.1 living with a disability in Swaziland presents significant challenges particularly for women. There is a general belief that those who have a disability are bewitched or inflicted by bad spirits also apply in case of women with disabilities. Many believe that being around people with disabilities can bring bad luck.71 As a result, many people with disabilities are hidden in their homesteads and are not given an opportunity to participate and contribute to society. Women and girls with disabilities face dual discrimination and are often worse off than men. They are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and there have been reported cases of forced sterilisation. According to a 2008 study, Women with disabilities described experiences of sexual exploitation and abuse, which was perceived to be higher amongst disabled women than their non-disabled peers; they felt this was because disabled women were perceived to be ‘free’ from the HIV virus by non-disabled men.72

  • Children

Children with disabilities have been historically marginalised and have not been able to access education opportunities to the same extent as their non-disabled peers, rendering them continually vulnerable to those factors such as poverty that limit or restrict access to education.73 This is despite the fact that Swaziland has sought to explicitly define and explain inclusive education in the policy frameworks.74

12 Future perspective

12.1 Are there any specific measures with regard to persons with disabilities being debated or considered in Swaziland at the moment?

Yes, currently the Disability Unit under the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office is spearheading the collection of DPOs, NGOs, and FBOs views to be included in the draft Persons with Disability Bill of 2014. Organisations have been given the opportunity to debate the issues to be included in the Bill as well as debate the strategic plans for its operationalisation in the country.

12.2 What legal reforms would you like to see in Swaziland? Why?

The legal reforms that are necessary to advance the rights of persons with disabilities would be based on the speedy passing by parliament of the Persons with Disability Bill into an Act of Parliament. The Act will make available the legal tool that will ensure that persons with disabilities are able to lead their lives as full citizens who can make valuable contributions to society if given the same opportunities as others. The Act purports to bring in important provisions on equity, and mindful of the fact that, states are obliged to consult with persons with disabilities, through their representative organisations, when developing and implementing legislation and policies to effectuate the Convention, and on all other policy matters that will affect the lives of persons with disabilities. With regards to receiving an education: the education policy should make provisions for all children living with special needs. That primary education for the disabled be made compulsory under the free universal primary education programme. To avoid setbacks such as failure of entire class of students with disability (as was witnessed in 2014) due to lack of trained personnel, it is recommended that persons with disability themselves be recruited into the education system as assistant teachers; as they have learned sign language and Braille from primary to high school, they are better placed to impart that knowledge. While government’s effort to train teachers in the use of sign language and Braille is commendable, it is not sustainable in that it is near impossible to master a language in a period of two years; hence the need to bring in former students as assistant teachers is more appealing.

  • Transport and access to buildings: The law of the country should lay down that all public buildings such as courts, hospitals, government offices, transport, roads and overhead bridges have got ramps that allow persons confined in wheelchairs free movement without assistance. The construction of the off ramps should be done in consultation with DPOs so that they are constructed correctly and are not too steep as is witnessed with current ramps. While government is commended for putting in place traffic lights designed to cater for persons who are visually impaired, this initiative should be effected in all the towns both big and small. The traffic lights will only be accessible to persons with disability if there are properly built walkways/ramps leading to the traffic lights.
  • Living independently in the community: The law should stipulate that persons with disabilities should be afforded equal opportunities with the rest of the community. Those who hide children with disabilities, forcing them not to access immunisation from diseases, not to access education and recreational platforms should be prosecuted for treating children with disabilities with cruelty.
  • Employment, even when not well qualified: There should be an adaptation of best practices from other countries; for instance, in the employment law of the country there must be affirmative action in favour of persons with disabilities through a quota system, for example, a 3 per cent quota in employment establishments of all the sectors should be occupied by persons living with disabilities.
  • Accessing to information: It must be provided in the law that all educational programmes and awareness raising programmes are interpreted in the sign language, particularly on TV. For example HIV/AIDS was declared a national disaster but awareness programmes mostly consist of posters and radio programmes which mean the blind and deaf miss out on valuable information. There is currently the threat of Ebola and there are no programmes on awareness targeting disabled persons at the moment.
  • Access to health care: Currently persons with disabilities receive free treatment in public hospitals, while this practice is commendable, it must put into law so that it is protected and guaranteed. The health policy should look into packaging medication for persons with disability as the current envelopes comes with no easy way for the disabled to tell them apart.
  • Right to political participation - Exercising political rights, such as voting: It must be law that persons with disabilities are catered for in the election process. Where needs be, ballot papers should also be made available in Braille. To ensure that persons with disabilities are also in top decision making bodies in the country, deserving members of DPOs should be appointed through the use of quota systems into decision making positions.

 


1. Central Statistical Office Population and Housing Survey (2007) 1. See also the Central Statistical Office (CSO) [Swaziland], and Macro International Inc Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey 2006-2007 (2008) 2.

2. Government of Swaziland: Central Statistics Office (CSO) 2007 Population and housing census: Fertility, nuptiality, disability & mortality (2010) 4.

3. CSO as above 40. See also the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office (DPMO), Swaziland Disability Profile (2011) 6.

4. CSO (n 2 above) 41-42; DPMO Swaziland Disability Profile as above 8.

5. As above.

6. DPMO Swaziland Disability Profile (n 3 above) 8.

7. CSO (n 2 above).

8. CSO (n 2 above). See also DPMO Swaziland Disability Profile (n 3 above) 9.

9. CSO (n 2 above).

10. DPMO Swaziland Disability Profile (n 3 above) 13.

11. CSO (n 2 above). See also DPMO Swaziland Disability Profile (n 3 above) 13.

12. As above.

13. As above.

14. See the United Nations Treaty Collection Website https://treaties.un.org/Pages/View Details. aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-15-a&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 25 March 2015).

15. Interview with Disability Unit Programmes Manager Ms Sindi Dube, held in Mbabane, 15 January 2015.

16. Human Rights Council ‘Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review-Swaziland’ A/HRC/19/6 (2011).

17. Human Rights Council (n 16 above) para 24.

18. Human Rights Council (n 16 above) para 60.

19. Human Rights Council (n 16 above) para 76.3 & 76.4.

20. Human Rights Council (n 16 above) para 76.22.

21. Human Rights Council (n 16 above) para 8.

22. Committee on the Rights of the Child ‘Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under article 44 of the Convention initial report of States parties due in 1997 Swaziland’ CRC/C/SWZ/1 (2006) para 111.

23. CRC Committee (n 22 above) para 96.

24. CRC Committee (n 22 above) para 104.

25. S Ngwenya ‘King orders Parly to ratify 28 international conventions’ Times of Swaziland 18 September 2012 http://www.times.co.sz/News/79799.html (accessed 25 March 2015).

26. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland 0001 of 2005, which came into force in February 2006.

27. It must be noted that the provisions of the draft Bill stated here are likely to be varied as it not yet at the final stages.

28. See secs 21 to 27 of the 2014 Persons with Disability Bill.

29. Secs 30 & 31.

30. Secs 32 & 33.

31. National population policy framework for Swaziland 2002, 45, 4.5.16.

32. Government of Swaziland - Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs ‘The Swaziland National Youth Policy’ 2009.

33. See the Swaziland Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration/Integrity Strategic Plan 2013-2017 http://www.sz.undp.org/content/dam/swaziland/docs/publications/UNDP_SZ_ Governance_SwazilandCommissionOnHumanRightsAndPublicAdministrationAndIntegrityStrategicPlan2013to2017.pdf (accessed 1 June 2015).

34. The functions of the commission are set out in section 164 of the Constitution.

35. See the DPMO, Swaziland Disability Policy of June 2013 14-15.

36. As above.

37. n 15 above, and interview with the President of FODSWA, Mr Mandla Methula, held in Mbabane on 15 January 2015.

38. AH Elde & B Jele ‘Living conditions of persons with disabilities in Swaziland - A national representative study’ (2011).

39. n 37 above.

40. As above.

41. Deputy Prime Minister’s Office (DPMO) A situation assessment of children and young persons with disabilities in Swaziland: Key findings (2010).

42. Deputy Prime Minister’s Office (DPMO) Swaziland National Disability Policy (2013) 18.

43. As above.

44. R Lang ‘Disability policy audit in Namibia, Swaziland, Malawi And Mozambique: Final report’(2008) 11.

45. Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey 2006-2007 (n 2 above).

46. The National Development Strategy (NDS) 1999.

47. DPMO (n 41 above).

48. The Swaziland National Plan of Action for Children, 2012-2015.

49. CSO (n 2 above) 45.

50. As above.

51. Sec 29(6) of the 2005 Constitution.

52. n 37 above.

53. S Sukati ‘School for the deaf records 100% fail rate’ Times of Swaziland 5 January 2012 http://www.times.co.sz/News/36257.html (accessed 25 March 2015). See also, A Zwane ‘Deaf schools jump off exam wagon’ Swazi Observer 10 January 2015 http://www.observer.org.sz/news/69288-deaf-schools-jump-off-exam-wagon.html (accessed 25 March 2015).

54. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No 14 ‘The right to the highest attainable standard of health’ E/C.12/2000/4 (11 August 2000) para 12.

55. See DPMO (n 41 above) and DPMO (n 3 above).

56. As above.

57. CRC Committee (n 22 above) para 263.

58. Approximately US$ 4 to 6.50.

59. n 15 above.

60. Sec 59(1) of the 2005 Constitution.

61. CSO (n 2 above) 47.

62. As above.

63. CSO (n 2 above) 48.

64. As above.

65. CRC Committee (n 22 above) para 263.

66. As above.

67. n 15 above.

68. Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act 67 of 1938, as amended.

69. LH Hoffmann & DT Zeffertt The South African Law of Evidence (4ed, 1988) 122.

70. Sec 30 of the 2005 Constitution.

71. Lang (n 44 above).

72. As above.

73. The Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities ‘Study on education for children with disabilities in Southern Africa’ (2012).

74. As above.


  • Arlene S Kanter
  • Bond, Schoeneck & King Distinguished Professor of Law, Laura J & L Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence Director, Disability Law and Policy Programme, Syracuse University College of Law.
  • Inviolata Sore
  • M.S. Education 2015, Syracuse University.
  • Daniel Van Sant
  • J.D./M.S. Education, expected 2016, Syracuse University.

  • AS Kanter, I Sore & D Van Sant ‘Country report: Morocco’ (2015) 3 African Disability Rights Yearbook 203-222
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2413-7138/2015/v3n1a9
  • Download article in PDF

1 Population indicators

1.1 What is the total population of Morocco?

As of September 2014, Morocco had a population of 33 762036.1

1.2 Describe the methodology used to obtain the statistical data on the prevalence of disability in Morocco. What criteria are used to determine who falls within the class of persons with disabilities in Morocco?

In preparation for the 2014 census, Morocco developed new census questions that address disability based on the International Classification of Performance.2 The 2014 census collected information about disability by asking six questions on six functional key areas namely: sight, hearing, movement, perception, self-care and communication.3 Because this census was performed recently, census data disaggregated by disability is presently unavailable.

1.3 What is the total number and percentage of persons with disabilities in Morocco?

According to the 2004 census an estimated 2.2 million, or seven per cent of the population in Morocco have a disability.4 However, according to the 2004 General Census of Population and Housing, the number of people with disabilities is approximately 680000, of whom 387000 live in urban areas and 293000 live in rural areas.5 A World Health Survey done in 2004 also indicates that 32 per cent of the population has a disability, while the Disability Survey in 2004 estimated only 5,12 per cent, as shown in figure 1.1.6 Another estimate places the percentage at seven per cent; and a third study reports that people with physical disabilities alone constitute 10 per cent of the population. 7

Morocco report 2015-2

Source: World Report on Disability, 2014 (based on 2004 data)

1.4 What is the total number and percentage of women with disabilities in Morocco?

According to the Moroccan National Survey of 2004-2006, one in four households, or a total of 1309000 households have a person with a disability.8 This survey also estimates that 5,12 per cent of the population or 1530000 people have a disability. Of those, 58,4 per cent live in urban areas, and 41,6 per cent live in rural territories.9

The Moroccan National Survey of 2004-2006, estimates that 46,6 per cent of the persons with a disability are female and 53,4 per cent are male. 10

1.5 What is the total number and percentage of children with disabilities in Morocco?

The National Survey of 2004-2006 estimates that 36,6 per cent of Moroccan children have a physical ormental disability, 23,1 per cent have multiple disabilities, 13,8 per cent have a motor disability, 9,3 per cent have autism, 8,7 per cent have a visceral/metabolic disability, 5,1 per cent have a visual disability and 3.4 per cent have a speech/language disability. 11

1.6 What are the most prevalent forms of disability and/or peculiarities to disability in Morocco?

According to the WHO, the following percentages below show the prevalence of disabilities amongst the Moroccan population:12

  • 51,9 per cent of people with disabilities have a motor impairment;
  • 31,8 per cent have a visceral or metabolic deficiency;
  • 28,8 per cent have a visual impairment;
  • 25,8 per cent have a speech impairment;
  • 23 per cent have a mental impairment;
  • 143 per cent have a hearing deficit; and
  • 4,7 per cent have an ‘aesthetic’ deficiency.

However, a 2010 study indicates that the cause of:

  • 22,8 per cent of disabilities are related to inherited, congenital and perinatal issues;
  • 38,4 per cent of disabilities are related to acquired illnesses;
  • 24,4 per cent of disabilities are accidents; and
  • 14, 4 per cent of disabilities are related to aging.

 

2 Morocco’s international obligations

2.1 What is the status of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Morocco? Did Morocco sign and ratify the CRPD? Provide the date(s).

Morocco signed the UNCRPD on 30 March 2007 and ratified it on 8 April 2009.

Although most countries typically sign and then ratify documents, Morocco actually ratified but did not sign the Optional Protocol on 8 April 2009. 13

2.2 If Morocco has signed and ratified the CRPD, when was its country report due? Which government department is responsible for submission of the report? Did Morocco submit its report? If so, and if the report has been considered, indicate if there was a domestic effect of this reporting process. If not, what reasons does the relevant government department give for the delay?

Morocco’s Country Report was due on 8 April 2011. Morocco submitted it on 27 April 2015, but only the Arabic Language version of the Moroccan Report is available on the CRPD Committee website. At this time, the CRPD Committee has issued no concluding observations. The Report states that it was prepared by the ‘Committee Responsible for the Rights of People with Disabilities Implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities: The initial report submitted by the participating countries under Article 35 of the Convention’.

2.3 While reporting under various other United Nations instruments, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, or the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, did Morocco also report specifically on the rights of persons with disabilities in its most recent reports? If so, were relevant ‘concluding observations’ adopted? If relevant, were these observations given effect to? Was mention made of disability rights in your state’s UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR)? If so, what was the effect of these observations/recommendations?

Morocco has ratified the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.14 The 2011 concluding observations of the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women mention disability only insofar as it refers to Morocco’s ratification of the CRPD.15 However, the 2014 concluding observations from the Committee on the Rights of the Child includes a statement that expresses concern that Morocco was not doing enough to identify and treat refugee and asylum-seeking children who have trauma related disabilities. 16

Morocco also ratified the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa.17 State reports and concluding observations of the African Union on Human Rights and People’s rights indicates that Morocco has not submitted any of its country reports on these treaties. 18

Morocco’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the Human Rights Council was completed in 2012. It mentions that a national action plan for the social integration of persons with disabilities was adopted for the period 2008-2017, and that measures have been taken to improve access to information, education, training and employment, to improve physical accessibility and access to transportation, and to promote participation in socio-cultural, sports and leisure activities for people with disabilities. However, the UPR also states that these measures still fall short of meeting the needs of persons with disabilities, particularly with respect to their access to employment and accessibility, in general. 19

In Morocco’s Mid-term Report on the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations issued at the second cycle of the UPR, the Inter-ministerial Delegation for Human Rights (IDHR) of Morocco reported on its progress in addressing these concerns. The IDHR reported that it implemented a new national definition of ‘disability’ to be included in future data collection that will make it possible to update the statistics of disability in Morocco.20 Other implemented changes include: the creation of 555 integrated classes in 383 educational institutions (benefiting 5998 boys and 2226 girls), the creation of integrated hospitals specialising in psychiatry and mental health with a 248-bed capacity (with plans to increase to 720 beds by 2016), the establishment of three psychiatric hospitals in the cities of Agadir, Kénitra, Kalaat Sraghna (with 120 bed capacities), and the development of legislation in the field of mental health, through the proposal of a new draft law. 21

The National Human Rights Council also recommended that Morocco adopt Bill No 62-09 on enhancing the rights of persons with disabilities. The Council has called for the establishment of a mechanism to monitor public policy, to ensure that the disability perspective and the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of disability are taken into account in all public policies. 22

2.4 Was there any domestic effect on Morocco’s legal system after ratifying the international or regional instruments in 2.3 above? Does the international or regional instrument that has been ratified require Morocco’s legislature to incorporate it into the legal system before the instrument can have force in Morocco’s domestic law? Have Morocco’s courts ever considered this question? If so, cite the case(s).

Morocco follows a monist approach to international law, as stated in its Preamble to the 2011 Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco. In relevant part, the Preamble states:

Founded on these values and these immutable principles, and strong in its firm will to reaffirm the bonds of fraternity, or cooperation, or solidarity and of constructive partnership with all other States, and to work for common progress, the Kingdom of Morocco, [a] united State, totally sovereign, belonging the Grand Maghreb, reaffirms that which follows and commits itself:

To comply with the international conventions duly ratified by it, within the framework of the provisions of the Constitution and of the laws of the Kingdom, within respect for its immutable national identity, and on the publication of these conventions, [their] primacy over the internal law of the country, and to harmonize in consequence the pertinent provisions of national legislation. 23

As such, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco requires that any ratified convention will take ‘primacy over the internal law’ of Morocco. No additional information or case law on this issue is provided.

2.5 With reference to 2.4 above, has the CRPD or any other ratified international instrument been domesticated? Provide details.

As stated above, Morocco signed the CRPD on 30 March 2007 and officially ratified it on 8 April 2009.24 A 2013 press release from the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Saad-Eddine El Otmani, said that the Moroccan government has completed consultations with all those concerned by the promotion of the rights of people with disabilities in order to harmonise Moroccan laws with the CRPD. He also noted that Morocco wants to integrate disabled persons into the post-2015 development program.25 No additional information is provided.

3 Constitution

3.1 Does the Constitution of Morocco contain provisions that directly address disability? If so, list the provisions, and explain how each provision addresses disability.

Yes, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco prohibits discrimination based on disability as well as on race, gender, language, social status, faith, culture, regional origin and ‘other personal circumstances’. Article 34 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco states as follows:

The public powers enact and implement the policies designed for persons and for categories of specific needs. To this effect, it seeks notably: - to respond to and provide for the vulnerability of certain categories of women and of mothers, of children, and of elderly persons; - to rehabilitate and integrate into social and civil life the physically, sensorimotor and mentally handicapped and to facilitate their enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized to all. 26

3.2 Does the Constitution of Morocco contain provisions that indirectly address disability? If so, list the provisions and explain how each provision indirectly addresses disability.

Yes, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco contains articles that address disability indirectly, including the following:

Article 19

The man and the woman enjoy, in equality, the rights and freedoms of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental character, enounced in this Title and in the other provisions of the Constitution, as well as in the international conventions and pacts duly ratified by Morocco and this, with respect for the provisions of the Constitution, of the constants and of the laws of the Kingdom. 27

Article 22

The physical or moral integrity of anyone may not be infringed, in whatever circumstance that may be and by any person that may be, public or private.28

Article 31

The State, the public establishments and the territorial collectivities work for the mobilization of all the means available to facilitate the equal access of the citizens feminine and citizens masculine to conditions that permit their enjoyment of the right: - to healthcare; - to social protection, to medical coverage and to the mutual or organized joint and several liability of the State; - to a modern, accessible education of quality; - to education concerning attachment to the Moroccan identity and to the immutable national constants; - to professional instruction and to physical and artistic education; - to decent housing; - to work and to the support of the public powers in matters of searching for employment or of self-employment; - to access to public functions according to the merits; - to the access to water and to a healthy environment; - to lasting [durable] development. 29

Since all of the above articles prohibit discrimination generally, they also can be read to indirectly prohibit discrimination based on disability. 

4 Legislation

4.1 Does Morocco have legislation that directly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the legislation and explain how the legislation addresses disability.

Morocco does have laws directly addressing disability issues, however, the only information available is in French. According to the Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity (the Ministry responsible for persons with disabilities), three laws directly address people with disabilities. They are: Law No 5-81 (on the welfare of the blind and visually impaired),30 Law No 07-92 (on the social protections of people with disabilities),31 and Law No 10-03 (relating to accessibility).32 In addition, Morocco has the following laws:

  • The principal law is the Dahir of 1959, which addresses the prevention of mental illnesses and protection of the patients. Its main aim is to guarantee that the institutions treat patients while protecting their rights and their property during their period of mental illness. This law also created the Central Service for Mental Health and Degenerative Diseases, the Mental Health Committee, organised mental institutions and other psychiatric services, specified different manners of patient admission and discharge, and outlined the ways in which patients and their property is to be protected.
  • The 1974 ‘Circulaire’ (Ministerial recommendations document), introduced regionalisation and ‘deinstitutionalization’. This was the start of a strategic policy to reduce the number of beds in psychiatric hospitals, to create smaller units with fewer beds (20-40 beds), and to integrate mental health into general hospitals. 33
  • Law No 14-05 establishes institutions for children with physical disabilities.

However, it has been noted that in recent years, special centres and schools have been established for these children, but their services are generally not affordable to most families. 34

The Dahir 1-58-295 relating to the prevention of mental illnesses and protection of the patients is the most recent mental health legislation.35 While this legislation was drafted in 1959, it was reviewed by WHO officials in 1998 and again in 2008. 36

The law in Morocco also includes building codes that require access for persons with disabilities. However, the government has not effectively implemented these laws and codes. The codes are rarely enforced, and in many cases, builders and building inspectors are unaware of the laws requiring accessibility. 37

The Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity has the responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities by implementing a quota of seven per cent for persons with disabilities in vocational training in the private and public sectors. In 2008, the government created 217 classes for children with disabilities.38 In practice, integration was largely left to the private charities. 39

4.2 Does Morocco have legislation that indirectly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the main legislation and explain how the legislation relates to disability.
  • Article 1 of Dahir N 04-2000, B.O N4800 of 1 June 2000 stipulates that all Moroccan children of both sexes, having reached the age of 6 years, have the right and the duty to education.40
  • The Moroccan Family Code (Moudawana) of 5 February 200441 also indirectly addresses the rights of people with disabilities (to the extent that they are not excluded).

The government of Morocco also approved two legal reforms in 2005 to expand health insurance coverage for its citizens. The first is a payroll-based mandatory health insurance plan for public-and formal private-sector employees, which extends coverage from the current 16 per cent of the population to 30 per cent. The second creates a publicly financed fund to cover services for the poor.42

5 Decisions of courts and tribunals

5.1 Have the courts (or tribunals) in Morocco ever decided on an issue(s) relating to disability? If so, list the cases and provide a summary for each of the cases with the facts, the decision(s) and the reasoning.

No such court or tribunal cases were found.

6 Policies and programmes

6.1 Does Morocco have policies or programmes that directly address disability? If so, list each policy and explain how the policy addresses disability.
  • Morocco has a mental health policy which was last revised in 2008 and includes the following components: (1) developing community mental health services; (2) downsizing large mental hospitals; (3) developing a mental health component in primary health care; (4) human resources; (5) advocacy and promotion; (6) human rights protection of patients; (7) equity of access across different groups; (8) financing; and (9) quality improvement. An essential medicines list is present in the country. 43
  • In 2000, the government created a Special Commission for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities. The Commission is responsible for developing programmes that facilitate the societal integration of people with disabilities. 44
  • In 2000, the Government instituted an annual ‘National Day of the Disabled’, aimed at increasing public awareness of issues affecting persons with disabilities.The King's charity, the Mohammed V Solidarity Fund, makes several donations each year to institutions supporting persons with disabilities. 45
  • On 5 December 2001, The International Day of Disabled Persons, the Ministry for the Condition of Women, Protection of the Family and Children, and Integration of the Handicapped sponsored a 2-day workshop with NGO's to promote self-employment of the handicapped. The programme included micro-financing for persons with disabilities.46
  • The organisation Diwan Alemadalim was established in December 2001 and it functions as an arbitrator between citizens and the administration to combat corruption, misuse of power and to protect the rights of the child.
  • The Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity has responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and has attempted to integrate persons with disabilities into society by implementing a quota of 7 percent for persons with disabilities in vocational training in the public sector and 5 percent in the private sector. 47
6.2 Does Morocco have policies and programmes that indirectly address disability? If so, list each policy and describe how the policy indirectly addresses disability

In addition to the information provided below in response to questions 7 and 8, Morocco has a compulsory social security system, Caisse Nationale de Securité Sociale (CNSS), which provides family allowance, disability, sickness, maternity, and pension benefits but not health insurance. It operates about a dozen health clinics providing subsidised care for uninsured people and limited health care benefits for children. 48

7 Disability bodies

7.1 Other than the ordinary courts or tribunals, does Morocco have any official body that though not established to specifically address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, can nonetheless do so? If so, describe the body, its functions and its powers.

The Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity has responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and has attempted to integrate persons with disabilities into society by implementing a quota of seven per cent for persons with disabilities in vocational training in the public sector and five per cent in the private sector.49 However, neither sector has reached its quotas.50 The government also has more than 400 integrated classes for children with learning disabilities, but integration is largely left to private charities.51 Families typically support persons with disabilities, although some survive by begging. 52

7.2 Other than the ordinary courts or tribunals, does Morocco have any official body that though not established to specifically address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, can nonetheless do so? If so, describe the body, its functions and its powers.

No such official body was identified.

8 National human rights institutions, Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman or Public Protector

8.1 Does Morocco have a Human Rights Commission, an Ombudsman or Public Protector? If so, does its remit include the promotion and protection of the rights of people with disabilities? If your answer is yes, also indicate whether the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman or Public Protector of Morocco has ever addressed issues relating to the rights of persons with disabilities.

Morocco has an Ombudsman Institution (Diwan al Malhalim), which combines ancient and modern Islamic tradition with the Swedish ombudsman model and other variations.53 The National Ombudsman’s Office (mediator institution) helps to resolve civil matters when the judiciary is unable to do so.54 Article 162 of the Constitution provides for the Ombudsman (Office of the Mediator) as an independent and specialised national institution that aims to protect human rights,55 including disability rights.

The National Human Rights Council (CNDH) is a national institution for the protection and promotion of human rights.56 It also has jurisdiction to, examine complaints submitted to the Council or the contents of relevant reports published by the different civil society stakeholders, follows up the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol and national initiatives aiming at the protection of the rights of person with disabilities in Morocco in comparison with the substantive provisions of the Convention, and makes relevant recommendations in this area. 57

In addition, the royal decree creating the CNDH grants the Council the power to investigate any allegations of human rights violations, to summon people to give evidence in its investigations, and to act as an early warning mechanism to prevent human rights violations including those of persons with disabilities. 58

The CNDH has thirteen regional human rights commissions which monitor the situation of human rights in the different regions of Morocco.59 The CNDH also examines complaints and relevant civil society reports, monitors cases of violations, examines the national laws compliance with international treaties to which Morocco is a party, and contributes to the implementation of mechanisms provided for by these international human rights conventions. 60

9 Disabled peoples organisations (DPOs) and other civil society organisations

9.1 Does Morocco have organisations that represent and advocate for the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities? If so, list each organisation and describe its activities.
  • An umbrella organisation known as ‘Collectif pour la Promotion des Droits des Personnes en Situation de Handicap’ consists of five organisations which represent the North, South and centre of Morocco. These organisations work to strive for equal civil, social, economic, and cultural rights of persons with disabilities. 61
  • Handicap International, an international disability organisation, also works in Morocco to help translate the CRPD into ‘practical action that will improve the lives of people with disabilities’ in Morocco.62 Handicap International works with disabled people's organisations so they can play a leading role in the creation and monitoring of new disability policies so that the Convention is meaningful for all people with disabilities.63Handicap International currently has three Disability Rights projects in the country of Morocco: A pilot programme with local partners in Tetouan to improve the city's accessibility in compliance with the CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities); A partner project with public authorities, based on the LEAD (Leadership and Empowerment for Action on Disability) project, to increase the social, economic and political involvement of 11 million people with disabilities in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia through advocacy training workshops and The Go To The Vote project to encourage political and legislative involvement from people with disabilities in Morocco and Libya. Building the capacities of local disabled people's organisations, electoral commissions, and political parties, the project aims to change the perception of disability through media campaigns, promote the accessibility of people with disabilities to elections, and ensure that disability is taken into account in electoral programmes.64
  • In the city of Salé and region of Souss-Massa-Drâa, Handicap International promotes the access of adults and children with disabilities to local educational, health, vocational, and administration systems. In Salé, awareness campaigns targeted at the general public on inclusive education, and sponsored debates and events for child education continue to directly benefit 297 children with disabilities and their families. In Souss-Massa-Drâa, technical support to paramedical professionals and the development of provincial disability committees promote the full and equal inclusion of people with disabilities in all facets of Moroccan society.
  • In addition, Morocco has undergone a series of major reforms since King Mohammed VI ascended to the throne in 1999. In 2002, substantial amendments to the Decree on the Right to Establish Associations were adopted, and a new Constitution was approved following popular protests in 2011. These reforms have enlarged the legal space for civil society, expanding its rights as well as its role in policymaking and the public sphere. As a result of the more enabling legal environment, Moroccan civil society has undergone substantial development.
  • In Morocco, there are several DPOs: The African Campaign on Disability and HIV&AIDS: This organisation is an umbrella organisation under which numerous organisations work collectively to coordinate the efforts of disabled people's organisations and HIV/AIDS organisations and fight for equal access for people with disabilities in Africa to information and services on HIV & AIDS.International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
  • Haut Commissariat aux Personnes Handicapées, a national umbrella organisation which advocates for rights, mobilises persons with disabilities, identifies needs and priorities, and contributes to public awareness. The national coordinating committee (‘Le Haut Commissariat aux Personnes Handicappées’) reports to the Prime Minister's office. The committee includes representatives of the commission of planning.

In sum, over the last decade, the number of Moroccan organisations working on disability issues has increased dramatically.65 Handicap International, for example, is working to build the capacities of these organisations to ensure they are better able to take into account the needs of people with disabilities and to more effectively advance their rights.66 In addition, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), in partnership with disability experts and organisations from the MENA region, undertook a series of activities in Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen and Morocco to promote greater political and electoral participation of citizens with disabilities. In Morocco, IFES worked with the Collectif pour la Promotion des Droits des Personnes en Situation de Handicap - the largest and most active disabilities rights collective in the country - to create guides and conduct trainings on increased political participation of persons with disabilities, targeted at NGOs, political parties and government officials. Under this project, each nation made important strides in increasing access of the disabled in political and electoral participation. 67

9.2 In the countries in Morocco’s region (North Africa) are DPOs organised/coordinated at national and/or regional level?

Morocco has a national umbrella organisation called ‘Haut Commissariat aux Personnes Handicapées’. There is a national coordinating committee (‘Le Haut Commissariat aux Personnes Handicappées’) reporting to the Prime Minister's office. The committee includes representatives of the commission of planning, of the CBR-programme and of an inter-ministerial committee. 68

In Morocco, IFES worked with the Collectif pour la Promotion des Droits des Personnes en Situation de Handicap - the largest and most active disabilities rights collective in the country.

9.3 If Morocco has ratified the CRPD, how has it ensured the involvement of DPOs in the implementation process?

In Morocco, there are several DPOs:

  • The African Campaign on Disability and HIV & AIDS is an umbrella under which numerous organisations work collectively to coordinate the efforts of disabled people's organisations and HIV/AIDS organisations and fight for equal access for people with disabilities in Africa to information and services on HIV & AIDS.
  • International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
  • IFES worked with the Collectif pour la Promotion des Droits des Personnes en Situation de Handicap - the largest and most active disabilities rights collective in the country - to create guides and conduct trainings on increased political participation of persons with disabilities, targeted at NGOs, political parties and government officials. Under this project, each nation made important strides in increasing access of the disabled in political and electoral participation. 69
  • Haut Commissariat aux Personnes Handicapées is a national umbrella organisation which advocates for rights, mobilises persons with disabilities, identifies needs and priorities, and contributes to public awareness.70 The national coordinating committee, Le Haut Commissariat aux Personnes Handicappées, reports to the Prime Minister's office. The committee includes representatives of the commission of planning, of the CBR-programme and of an inter-ministerial committee. The government expects the committee to participate in policy development and to perform other tasks. The establishment of the committee has had the following effects: improved coordination of measures/programmes in the disability field, improved legislation and integration of responsibility, a better dialogue in the disability field and improved promotion of public awareness. 71
9.4 What types of actions have DPOs themselves taken to ensure that they are fully embedded in the process of implementation?

DPOs support the development of persons with disabilities’ capacities by providing them with a common platform to exchange and share their experiences and build a common voice.72 They often engage in the provision of information on disability for their members (on their rights, but also existing services, facilities and provisions) or specific services, such as sign language training. Many DPOs are engaged in the provision of rehabilitation or socio-economic services to their members, which they consider part of their mandate (this varies significantly depending on the context). In their function of representatives of persons with disabilities, DPOs mostly see their role as raising awareness in society and advocating for equal rights as citizens.73

Civil society is very active in providing services to children living with disabilities. The Moroccan Friendship for the Disabled is an organisation working to promote the rights of people living with disabilities and contribute to their professional and social integration. Besides awareness-raising activities, this organisation also launched in October 2010, with the support of Handicap International, works towards training of teachers and educators within the ‘Social Integration Classes’ programme.74

DPOs also work towards improving their living conditions and promoting the respect for dignity and their fundamental rights, together with a preventive action towards impairments and disabilities linked to diseases, accidents and violence. In most cases, this consists of reducing obstacles to full participation, ensuring that persons with disabilities can access the services they require and enjoy their lives to the fullest. 75

The mental illness advocacy association UNAHM organised a sit-in in front of parliament in Rabat to ask for an urgent intervention from the authorities to guarantee rights for the mentally challenged that follow universal United Nations conventions. 76

At a week-long conference also held in Casablanca, UNAHM insisted on the need to put the issue of mental disability amongst ‘national priorities’.77

9.5 What, if any, are the barriers DPOs have faced in engaging with implementation?

As relatively new organisations whose members often face discrimination, DPOs have had limited opportunities to develop relevant capacities and resources. 78

9.6 Are there specific instances that provide ‘best-practice models’ for ensuring proper involvement of DPOs?

Although Morocco has a long way to go to realise the goals of the CRPD, the existence of a government office responsible for promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities, as required under the CRPD, as well as the existence of an umbrella organisation at the country level comprising of DPOs, could be considered good practices. The actions that have been taken by NGOs to date in order to ensure implementation of the CRPD may be seen as a good practice.

9.7 Are there any specific outcomes regarding successful implementation and/or improved recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities that resulted from the engagement of DPOs in the implementation process?

Yes, there have been outcomes regarding the successful implementation of the CRPD. As part of the framework of a national implementation process of the International Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, the draft report recommends that, the establishment of appropriate measures, including criminal, to fight against all acts of discriminatory terms and stigmatizing language and disrespectful and cruel, inhuman and degrading behavior or to the dignity of persons with disabilities.

The Economic and Social Council (ESC) of Morocco emphasises, through its draft report, the need to implement an integrated national policy to protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of Moroccan citizens affected by disability (1.5 million according to the last census of 2004). It also recalls that the fight against all forms of discrimination and protecting the rights of vulnerable groups is a constitutional commitment under article 34 of the New Constitution. As stated in the ESC report: ‘By integrating the issue of the disabled, the new constitution requires the Moroccan government to develop an action plan and an effective strategy to promote integration.’79

9.8 Has your research shown areas for capacity building and support (particularly in relation to research) for DPOs with respect to their engagement with the implementation process?

Additional resources are needed to increase the effectiveness of DPOs and to improve their effective engagement in the CRPD implementation process.

9.9 Are there recommendations that come out of your research as to how DPOs might be more comprehensively empowered to take a leading role in the implementation processes of international or regional instruments?

DPOs may be empowered in several ways. First, they may engage in capacity building trainings and programmes; they may seek ways to work together to increase their impact and to broaden their collaboration with other NGOs and mainstream human rights organisations, and they may choose to partner with other organisations to increase their access to financial and other resources.

9.10 Are there specific research institutes in the region where Morocco is situated (North Africa) that work on the rights of persons with disabilities and that have facilitated the involvement of DPOs in the process, including in research?

No such institutes were identified in Morocco.

10 Government departments

10.1 Does Morocco have a government department or departments that is/are specifically responsible for promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities? If so, describe the activities of the department(s).

The Ministry of Solidarity, Women, and Social Development is the governmental ministry that is expressly tasked with the responsibility of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.80 It is currently working in four areas:

  • Improving access to information, education, training and employment

The goal is improving school enrollment rates of children with disabilities to reach the stated government objective of 70 per cent, introduced by the Prime Minister before parliament.

The Ministry works to improve access to information, job training and employment of people at risk or with disabilities, their families and associations working in this area.

  • Improving physical, communication and transportation accessibility

In order to facilitate the integration of persons with disabilities, the Ministry works to improve access to open spaces, public buildings and the built environment, as well as to means of transportation and communication.

  • Participating in cultural, sporting, tourist and leisure activities

This programme aims at improving the well-being of persons with disabilities through their participation in sporting, cultural and leisure activities. 

The Ministry strives to provide support for greater accessibility to leisure activities, participation in sporting, artistic and cultural events and community based initiatives.

  • Producing information and knowledge about disabilities

Five years after the completion of the first national survey on disabilities, the Ministry will conduct a second survey. It will enable monitoring of disabilities in different Moroccan cities and an evaluation of policies targeting this area. 81

11 Main human rights concerns of people with disabilities in Morocco

11.1 Describe the contemporary challenges of persons with disabilities, and the legal responses thereto, and assess the adequacy of these responses to:
  • Research on the parental attitudes towards disability often focused on mental disabilities.82 This means the other categories of disabilities receive less awareness and, as a result, fewer resources.
  • Religious beliefs, in general, have been associated with the idea that disability is a punishment or god-given. This belief remains strongly present in Morocco. In a list recording the causes of health problems, 49,5 per cent of informants with disability in the Moroccan National Survey of 2004 mentioned the divine power as the cause of the disability. The relationship between religion and disability is evident in such attitudes. 83
11.2 Do people with disabilities have a right to participation in political life (political representation and leadership) in Morocco?

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), in partnership with disability experts and organisations from the MENA region, undertook a series of activities in Morocco to promote greater political and electoral participation of citizens with disabilities. In Morocco, IFES worked with the Collectif pour la Promotion des Droits des Personnes en Situation de Handicap, the largest and most active disability rights collective in the country, to create guides and conduct trainings on increased political participation of persons with disabilities, targeted at NGOs, political parties and government officials. In this project, Morocco made important strides in increasing access for people with disabilities in the arenas of political and electoral participation. 84

11.3 Are people with disabilities’ socio-economic rights, including the right to health, education and other social services protected and realised in Morocco?
  • The Collectif pour la promotion des droits des personnes en situation de handicap (Disability Rights Promotion Group) (CHDM) indicated that persons with disabilities still endure discrimination, particularly in the workplace.
  • CHDM also recommended that Morocco mobilise the necessary resources to allow children with disabilities to enjoy their right to education. CHDM also reported the restrictions on the participation of persons with disabilities in public and political life and mentioned the issue of the restricted legal capacity of the ‘feeble-minded’, making a recommendation on the matter. CHDM reported that ‘no investigations had been made and/or prosecutions brought in the case of physical and/or sexual violence suffered by a number of persons with disabilities.’85
  • Le Collectif autism Maroc (CAM) mentioned the particular problems of autistic children in education, and shortcomings in the right to health of persons with disabilities; it also made recommendations, particularly on stopping the practice of treating autism as a psychosis and establishing a national fund for persons with disabilities.

Le Médiateur pour la démocratie et les droits de l’homme (MDDH) reported that few persons with disabilities were recruited into the public sector.

11.4 Case studies of specific vulnerable groups
  • Older Persons

The rights of older persons are a major challenge for Moroccan society.86 Despite the new Constitution, which guarantees access to social protection, and the social welfare institutions law, Morocco has not yet had any specific legal provisions protecting the rights of older persons.87

  • Indigenous Persons

Imazighen, also known as Berbers, are the indigenous peoples of Morocco.88 Prior to 2011, the Preamble to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco recognised Arabic as the sole national language and Morocco’s government suppressed the Tamazight language as a symbol of Imazighen identity and their cultural rights.89 In 2011, the revised Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco recognised the Tamazight language as an official language of Morocco.90 However, since then, the government has yet to implement this provision, despite calls from the Amazigh Cultural Movement (ACM) to do so. Until such a law is implemented, ‘the situation of Amazigh or Indigenous persons’ rights will remain in a state of limbo’.91

  • Children

Net primary school enrolment rates have been increasing rapidly, reaching 87 per cent for girls and 92 per cent for boys in 2009. However, net secondary school rates are still extremely low, with only 37 per cent of boys and 32 per cent of girls attending secondary school.92 The quality of education is also an issue as evidenced by poor retention rates: 25 per cent of school children drop out before the fifth grade, and only 10 per cent make it to 11th grade.93

With respect to Child Marriages, although reforms to the family law (2004) have raised the minimum age of marriage for women from 15 to 18 years, girls as young as 13 may get married, but only with judicial authorisation.94 The number of child marriages, however, is increasing. Between 2009 and 2010, it increased by 3000, with a total of 33253 early marriages recorded.95 Although forced child labour is also prohibited, it remains a critical challenge as it concerns nine per cent of children aged 5 to 14 years.96 Violence against and abuse of children also remains an issue. Owing to the fact that teachers and parents believe that children should fear them, ‘violence is often socially-accepted and approved’.97 Sixty-one per cent of children report that they have been beaten by their parents at least once.98 Even in school, where corporal punishment is not permitted, it is still widely practiced, with 87 per cent of children reporting that they have been beaten at school at least once.99

  • Women

The issue of women’s rights is a highly visible and widely discussed topic in Morocco today. The King has been quoted as saying that since women make up 50 per cent of the population, they should have a similar representation in the legislature.100 However, less attention is paid to issues affecting women with disabilities. 101

  • Persons with Mental Disabilities

Based on the laws described in section 3.1 above, there is some attention also paid to issues affecting persons with mental disabilities in Morocco. For example, research on parental attitudes towards disability often focused on the needs of children and adults with mental disabilities.102 Little or no research on attitudes about other types of disabilities has been conducted.

12 Future perspective

12.1 Are there any specific measures with regard to persons with disabilities being debated or considered in Morocco at the moment?

None that we are aware of.

12.2 What legal reforms would you like to see in Morrocco? Why?

In order to ensure greater recognition for the rights of people with disabilities under the CRPD and domestic law, additional research and advocacy is needed. For example, a research institute on disability rights could be established to support DPOs efforts and increase their capacity. Opportunities for DPOs to partner with other regional and international DPOs would also increase their capacity as would trainings by activists, self-advocates and other experts who have experience working on the advancement of disability rights in such areas as education, employment, political participation, to name a few. Additional lawyer and policy makers could benefit by training on how human rights principles and the CRPD, in particular, apply to people with disabilities. For example, some universities, such as Syracuse University College of Law, now offer specialised advanced legal training in disability rights for lawyers from other countries. If lawyers (especially lawyers with disabilities) from Morocco participated in such programmes, upon their return to Morocco the following year, they would be particularly well suited to advance the rights of people with disabilities in Morocco.

 


1. ‘Morocco Population Reached 33.8 Million in September 2014: Census’ Morocco World News 16 March 2015.

2. Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights ‘Mid-term Report on the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations issued at the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review’ (2014).

3. As above.

4. United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor ‘Morocco’ 28 February 2005 (accessed 29 April 2015).

5. World Bank Statistics Directorate ‘General Census of Population and Housing 2004’ (2014).

6. Knoema ‘World Report on Disability, 2014’ (2014). This report was published in 2014, but the survey was conducted in 2004 knoema.com/WBRD2014/world-report-on-disability-2014? country=1001140-morocco (accessed 29 April 2015).

7. A Chetouani ‘Etude numérique de problèmes non linéaire et application aux problèmes de dynamique de populations’ unpublished PhD thesis, Mohammed the First University (2003).

8. L Bakker ‘Perceptions of child’s disability in the Moroccan context: Religious perspectives’ unpublished Master’s thesis, Leiden University, 2010.

9. As above.

10. As above.

11. As above.

12. As above.

13. United Nations Enable ‘Convention and Optional Protocol signatures and ratifications’ http://www.un.org/disabilities/countries.asp?navid=12&pid=166#M (accessed 27 April 2015).

14. Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights Human Rights Bodies http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/Pages/HumanRightsBodies.aspx (accessed 28 April 2015).

15. Committee against Torture ‘Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture: Morocco’ (21 December 2011).

16. Committee on the Rights of the Child ‘Concluding Observations on the report submitted by Morocco under article 8, paragraph 1 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict’ (13 November 2014).

17. United Nations Children’s Fund ‘At a glance: Morocco Statistics’ 2013 http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/morocco_statistics.html#120 (accessed 28 April 2015).

18. African Commission on Human and People’s Rights ‘State reports and concluding observations’ http://www.achpr.org/states/reports-and-concluding-observations/ (accessed 28 April 2015).

19. Human Rights Council ‘National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21: Morocco’ (8 March 2012).

20. Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights (n 2 above).

21. As above.

22. Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights (n 2 above).

23. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco, Preamble.

24. United Nations Enable (n 14 above).

25. Kingdom of Morocco ‘Morocco about to adopt integrated policy for rights of handicapped persons’ 25 September 2013 http://www.maroc.ma/en/news/morocco-about-adopt-integrated-policy-rights-handicapped-persons (accessed 28 April 2015).

26. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco,art34.

27. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco, art 19.

28. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco, art 22.

29. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco, art 31.

30. Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity ‘Dahir n° 1- 82- 246 du 11 rejeb 1402 (6 Mai 1982) portant promulgation de la loi n°05- 81 relative à la protection sociale des aveugles et des déficients visuels’ http://www.social.gov.ma/MdsfsFichiers/pdf/loi_05-81_fr.pdf (accessed 28 April 2015).

31. Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity ‘Dahir n° 1-92-30 du 22 rabia I 1414 (10 Septembre 1993) portant promulgation de la loi n°07-92 relative à la protection sociale des personnes handicapées’ http://www.social.gov.ma/MdsfsFichiers/pdf/loi_07-92_fr.pdf (accessed 28 April 2015).

32. Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity ‘Dahir n° 1-03-58 du 10 rabii I 1424 (12 Mai 2003) portant promulgation de la loi n° 10-03 relative aux accessibilités’ http://www.social.gov.ma/MdsfsFichiers/pdf/loi_10-03_fr.pdf (accessed 28 April 2015).

33. World Health Organization & Ministry of Health Morocco ‘WHO-AIMS Report on Mental Health System in Morocco’ 2006.

34. Manara Network for Child Rights ‘Country profile of Morocco: Are view of the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’ (August 2011) http://www.ibcr.org/editor/assets/Morocco%20Country%20Profile.pdf (accessed 29 April 2015).

35. World Health Organization Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse ‘Mental Health Atlas 2005’ (2005) http://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/atlas/profiles_countries_j_ m.pdf?ua=1 (accessed 28 April 2015).

36. As above.

37. United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor ‘2009 human rights practices: Morocco’ (11 March 2010) http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/nea/136075.htm (accessed 28 April 2015).

38. The Moroccan Family Code (Moudawana) of 5 February 2004 http://www.hrea.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Moudawana.pdf (accessed 24 September 2015) trans Human Rights Education Associates (2005).

39. As above.

40. The International Labour Office & The African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights ‘Country report of the research project by the International Labour Organization and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the constitutional and legislative protection of the rights of indigenous peoples: Morocco’ http://www.chr.up.ac.za/chr_old/indigenous/country_ reports/Country_reports_Morocco.pdf (accessed 26 May 2015).

41. n 38 above.

42. J Ruger & D Kress ‘Health financing and insurance reform in Morocco’ (July 2007) http://content. healthaffairs.org/content/26/4/1009.full (accessed 26 May 2015).

43. World Health Organization Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (n 35 above).

44. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor ‘Country reports on human rights practices’ (4 March 2002) http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/nea/8277.htm (accessed 28 April 2015).

45. As above.

46. As above.

47. As above.

48. Ruger & Kress (n 42 above).

49. Country report (n 40 above)

50. As above.

51. n 44 above.

52. As above.

53. M Mhamed Iraki & Wali al Madhalim ‘In the Kingdom of Morocco: Readings in the Islamic Model of Ombudsman’ (12 June 2009).

54. United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (n 43 above).

55. Human Rights Council ‘Report of the Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed’ (2 May 2012) http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/Regular Session/Session20/A-HRC-20-26-Add2_en.pdf (accessed 28 April 2015).

56. As above.

57. Kingdom of Morocco National Human Rights Council ‘Conditions and situation of persons with disabilities’ http://www.cndh.org.ma/an/programs/human-rights-protection-programs (accessed 28 April 2015).

58. See National Council on Human Rights at http://www.cndh.org.ma/an/about-cndh/about-us (accessed 25 May 2015). See also Morocco on the Move ‘Morocco is committed to protecting human rights’ (2012) https://moroccoonthemove.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/fs_morocco protectinghumanrights10january2012.pdf (accessed 28 April 2015).

59. National Human Rights Council About Us http://www.cndh.org.ma/an/about-cndh/about-us (accessed 28 April 2015).

60. As above.

61. Bakker (n 8 above).

62. Handicap International UK Morocco 2015 http://www.handicap-international.org.uk/where_ we_work/africa/morocco (accessed 28 April 2015).

63. As above.

64. As above.

65. Handicap International UK (n 62 above).

66. As above.

67. International Foundation for Electoral Systems ‘People with disabilities’ (2015) http://www.ifes.org/Content/Topics/Inclusion-and-Empowerment/Inclusion-of-Persons-with-Disabilities/People-with-Disabilities.aspx (accessed 28 April 2015).

68. D Michailakis ‘Government action on disability policy: A Global Survey
Part II - Government replies as Country Profiles, Morocco’ (1997) http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article= 1232&context=gladnetcollect (accessed 28 April 2015).

69. International Foundation for Electoral Systems (n 67 above).

70. Michailakis (n 68 above).

71. As above.

72. Handicap International Technical Resource Division ‘Policy paper on support to organisations representative of persons with disabilities’ (2011) http://www.disabilityrightsfund.org/files/supporttodpo.pdf (accessed 28 April 2015).

73. As above.

74. As above.

75. As above.

76. Disability Rights Promotion International ‘Mentally challenged in Morocco: We want our rights, not charity’ (26 January 2015) http://drpi.research.yorku.ca/mentally-challenged-in-morocco-we-want-our-rights-not-charity/ (accessed 28 April 2015).

77. As above.

78. As above.

79. AM Mantrach ‘The situation of the disabled people in Morocco concerned the Economic and Social Council’ Yabiladi 7 February 2012 http://yabiladi.com/articles/details/11666/situation-handicapes-maroc-inquiete-conseil.html (accessed 28 April 2015).

80. Ministry of Solidarity, Women, and Social Development About Us 2015 http://www.social.gov.ma/index.aspx (accessed 28 April 2015).

81. Ministry of Solidarity, Women, and Social Development ‘Strategy’ 2015 http://www. social.gov.ma/fr/index.aspx?mod=15&rub=261 (accessed 28 April 2015).

82. R Hasnain et al ‘Disability and the Muslim perspective: An introduction for rehabilitation and health care providers’ (2008) Center for Rehabilitation Research Information & Exchange http://cirrie.buffalo.edu/culture/monographs/muslim/ (accessed 1 May 2015).

83. Foundation du Fonds pour le Maroc ‘Inventaire sur la situation des sourds au Maroc’ http://www.fmsourds.org/index.php?a=readmore&n=71 (accessed 1 May 2015).

84. International Foundation for Electoral Systems (n 67 above).

85. International Disability Alliance ‘Universal Periodic Review 13th Session’ 26 April 2012.

86. Kingdom of Morocco National Human Rights Counsel ‘Rights of Older Persons: Major Challenge Moroccan Society’ (8 September 2014) http://www.cndh.org.ma/an/highlights/rights-older-persons-major-challenge-moroccan-society-0 (accessed 26 May 2015).

87. As above.

88. Country Report (n 44 above).

89. As above.

90. International Workgroup for Indigenous Affairs ‘2015 yearbook article’ http://www.iwgia.org/images/stories/sections/regions/africa/documents/IW2015/Morocco_IW2015_web.pdf (accessed 26 May 2015).

91. As above.

92. Save the Children Children’s Situation in Morocco 12 April 2013 http://resourcecentre. savethechildren.se/start/countries/morocco (accessed 26 May 2015).

93. As above.

94. As above.

95. As above.

96. As above.

97. As above.

98. As above.

99. As above.

100. DH Gray ‘Educated, professional women in Morocco and women of Moroccan origin in France: Asserting anew public and private identity’ (2006) 2 Journal Of Middle East Women's Studies 48.

101. Human Rights Council (n 55 above).

102. Bakker (n 8 above).

 


  • Romola Adeola
  • LLD Candidate, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.

  • R Adeola ‘Country report: Sierra Leone’ (2015) 3 African Disability Rights Yearbook 225-244
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2413-7138/2015/v3n1a10
  • Download article in PDF

1 Population indicators

1.1 What is the total population of Sierra Leone?

The last population census in Sierra Leone was conducted in 2004. At the time, the total population of persons with or without disabilities of all ages in Sierra Leone was placed at 4 928 578.1 Of this figure, the total number of persons with disabilities was placed at 119 260. The final results of the 2004 Population Census of Sierra Leone embargoed until 2006 placed the total population of persons in Sierra Leone at 4 976 871.2 The next population census will be conducted in 2015. However, according to the World Bank, the total population of Sierra Leone as at 2013 is estimated to be 6.092 million. 3

1.2 Describe the methodology used to obtain the statistical data on the prevalence of disability in Sierra Leone. What criteria are used to determine who falls within the class of persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone?

This report utilised the 2004 Population Census4 figures in obtaining the statistical data on the prevalence of disability in Sierra Leone.

1.3 What is the total number and percentage of persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone?

The 2004 population census indicates that about 119 260 persons with disabilities are in Sierra Leone,5 which is about 2,4 per cent of Sierra Leone’s of the population recorded in the 2004 population census. 6

1.4 What is the total number and percentage of women with disabilities in Sierra Leone?

In line with the 2004 Population Census figures, the total number of women with disabilities in Sierra Leone is 56 530. This accounts for 2,2 per cent of the total female population of 2 481 071.7

1.5 What is the total number and percentage of children with disabilities in Sierra Leone?

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey of 2005, about 23,8 per cent of children between the ages of 2 to 9 years were reported to have one form of disability.8 Estimated to around 24 per cent, the Advocacy Movement Network suggests that there are about 625 000 children with disabilities in Sierra Leone. 9

1.6 What are the most prevalent forms of disability and/or peculiarities to disability in Sierra Leone?

In light of the 2004 Population Census, there are about:10

  • 31 550 persons with a visual impairment;
  • 11 344 with a hearing impairment; and
  • 44 371 with physical impairments (from the use of legs, arms and back spine); and about 5 803 persons with a speech impairment. 

2 Sierra Leone’s international obligations

2.1 What is the status of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Sierra Leone? Did Sierra Leone sign and ratify the CRPD? Provide the date(s).

Sierra Leone signed the CRPD and its Optional Protocol on 30 March 2007.11 On 4 October 2010, Sierra Leone ratified the CRPD.12 However, Sierra Leone has not ratified the Optional Protocol. 13

2.2 If Sierra Leone has signed and ratified the CRPD, when was its country report due? Which government department is responsible for submission of the report? Did Sierra Leone submit its report? If so, and if the report has been considered, indicate if there was a domestic effect of this reporting process. If not, what reasons does the relevant government department give for the delay?

The government department in charge of issues around disability rights is the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs.14 The state report of Sierra Leone to the CRPD Committee was due on 4 November 2012.15 However, at the date of concluding the country report in June 2015, Sierra Leone had yet to submit its report to the CRPD committee. 16

2.3 While reporting under various other United Nations instruments, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, or the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, did Sierra Leone also report specifically on the rights of persons with disabilities in its most recent reports? If so, were relevant ‘concluding observations’ adopted? If relevant, were these observations given effect to? Was mention made of disability rights in Sierra Leone’s UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR)? If so, what was the effect of these observations/recommendations?

While reporting under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),17 Sierra Leone has reported on the rights of persons with disabilities. On 8 September 2006, Sierra Leone submitted its second periodic report on the CRC to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee).18 In this report, Sierra Leone stated that a National Policy for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities was being developed.19 While noting the development of the National Policy for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities, the CRC Committee in its concluding observation on Sierra Leone’s second periodic report expressed concern about the absence of a legislative framework ‘to cover the needs and protection of persons with disabilities’.20 The CRC Committee further made mention of the absence of information in respect of the inclusion of children with disabilities within the society. 21

On 2 September 2013, Sierra Leone submitted its third to fifth periodic report on the CRC in which it stated some of the steps it had taken in light of the CRC Committee’s concluding observation.22 In this report, Sierra Leone emphasised that in 2011, it passed legislation on disability rights.23 It further stated that it has complementary legislations in which it protects the rights of children with disabilities including the Child Rights Act24 and the National Youth Commission Act.25

Sierra Leone further emphasised in its report that the Special Needs Education Unit for the establishment of Special Schools in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology with the support of Leonard Cheshire Home ‘prepared a six-module curriculum for the training of teachers in teaching pupils with disabilities, set up a computer and braille training centre, and provided quarterly subventions to 12 Special Schools’.26 The CRC Committee will consider this report in 2016.27

In the concluding observation of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) on the sixth periodic report of Sierra Leone,28 the CEDAW Committee expressed concern in relation to the absence of information on the ‘situation of elderly women and women with disabilities who suffer multiple forms of discrimination and are less likely to have access to basic services, including education, employment and health care’.29 The CEDAW Committee recommended that specific policy measures be adopted in addressing this concern.30 In 2013, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs developed a strategic plan for 2014-2018 in which it seeks to protect all persons including the elderly and persons with disabilities in the realisation of a Sierra Leonean society where everyone lives in dignity and where rights are protected.31 The next due date of Sierra Leone’s state report to the CEDAW Committee is 1 February 2018. In its report to the Committee against Torture, Sierra Leone mentioned that it had ratified the CRPD.32 The Committee against Torture welcomed the ratification of the CRPD. 33

In its national report submitted for the Universal Periodic Review process in 2011, Sierra Leone made mention of the fact that it was developing a ‘Draft Disability Policy and Bill’ which made provision for the creation of a Disability Commission.34 Sierra Leone emphasised that it was committed to the protection of the rights of vulnerable group.35 Spain recommended that Sierra Leone should ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen efforts for the protection of children with disabilities.36 Cuba further recommended that Sierra Leone should continue with efforts to ensure the protection of PWDs. These recommendations enjoyed the support of Sierra Leone. 37

In its initial and combined report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) with respect to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter),38 Sierra Leone made mention of the fact that it has a Disability Act.39 However, the report does not indicate specific measures taken to protect PWDs in terms of the legislation.40 The report only highlights the fact that although there are laws ensuring protection of all persons against discrimination, acts of discrimination against PWDs and women still persist in terms of employment. However, the report indicates that with the enactment of the Disability Act and the creation of the Industrial Court to handle such issues, ‘there is hope for improvement’.41 No concluding observation is available in respect of this report. 42

In respect of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Children’s Charter),43 Sierra Leone became a state party in 2002.44 As at 2014, it had not submitted its report to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. 45

2.4 Was there any domestic effect on Sierra Leone’s legal system after ratifying the international or regional instruments in 2.3 above? Does the international or regional instrument that has been ratified require Sierra Leone’s legislature to incorporate it into the legal system before the instrument can have force in Sierra Leone’s domestic law? Have Sierra Leone’s courts ever considered this question? If so, cite the case(s).

As with other international human rights law instruments, state parties to the CRC,46 the African Charter;47 the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW);48 the African Children’s Charter;49 and the CRPD are enjoined to incorporate treaty provisions into their national laws.

By virtue of section 40 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991, Sierra Leone is a dualist system and as such international law instruments have to be domesticated by parliament. Sierra Leone enacted a Child Rights Act in 2007,50 which aims at protecting the rights of the child in a manner ‘compatible with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its Optional Protocol ... and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child’.51 Sierra Leone has not domesticated CEDAW. However, through statements of senior state officials, it has pledged to do so.52 In its state report to the African Commission on the African Charter, Sierra Leone analysed the provisions of its Constitution in relation to the African Charter.53 However, there is no specific act of parliament as in the case of Nigeria that specifically domesticates the African Charter. 54

With respect to court cases, Marrah notes that due to the fact that ‘a large portion of legal practitioners in Sierra Leone are unfamiliar especially with regional human rights instruments, it has been immensely difficult for human rights litigation ... to be undertaken’.55 Consequently, Marrah observes that ‘case law in regards to the African Charter ... are few and far between if not virtually non-existent’.56

2.5 With reference to 2.4 above, has the CRPD or any other ratified international instrument been domesticated? Provide details.

The CRPD has been domesticated through the 2011 Disability Act. As earlier stated, the 2007 Child Right Act of Sierra Leone domesticates the African Children’s Charter and the CRC. 

3 Constitution

3.1 Does the Constitution of Sierra Leone contain provisions that directly address disability? If so, list the provisions, and explain how each provision addresses disability.

The Constitution of Sierra Leone does not specifically or explicitly prohibit discrimination on account of disability.57 Article 27(3) of the Constitution, which lists discriminatory grounds provides that:58

In this section the expression ‘discriminatory’ means affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, tribe, sex, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed whereby persons of one such description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another such description are not made subject, or are accorded privileges or advantages which are not accorded to persons of another such description.

Although the section mentions the word ‘disabilities’, the word is used in a different context and not in the context of the prohibition of discrimination on account of disabilities.

3.2 Does the Constitution of Sierra Leone contain provisions that indirectly address disability? If so, list the provisions and explain how each provision indirectly addresses disability.

Article 8(2)(a) in Chapter II of the Sierra Leone Constitution provides that in the realisation of the Social Order of the state, the government should ensure ‘that opportunities for securing justice are not denied any citizen by reason of economic or other disability’. 59 

4 Legislation

4.1 Does Sierra Leone have legislation that directly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the legislation and explain how the legislation addresses disability.

Sierra Leone does have national legislation that directly addresses the issue of disability.60 Significantly, the Disability Act61 establishes a national commission62 with the mandate of ensuring ‘the well-being of persons with disability’.63 The Disability Act further provides for the rights of PWDs inclusive amongst which are: (a) the right of a person to free education for persons with disabilities; (b) protection from discrimination in employment; and (c) the right to access public buildings.

4.2 Does Sierra Leone have legislation that indirectly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the main legislation and explain how the legislation relates to disability.

Sierra Leone has several pieces of legislation that indirectly addresses the issues of disability. Amongst others are the Sexual Offences Act64 and the Right to Access Information Act.65 Article 4(2) of the Education Act recognises disability as a prohibited ground of discrimination.66 Article 8(1) of the Sexual Offences Act provides ‘[a] person who intentionally causes, incites, threatens or deceives another person with a mental disability to engage in a sexual activity commits an offence’.67 Such an offender is liable to imprisonment for a term ‘not less than five years and not exceeding fifteen years’.68 Article 74(1)(i) of the Public Election Act 2012 provides for the process which a visual or physically impaired voter may employ in order to vote. In light of this provision, a visually or physically impaired voter is required to make an application to the Presiding Officer who will provide assistance in the case for a physically impaired voter or inform the visually impaired voter that he can append his ‘fingerprint mark in the square corresponding to the name of the candidate’69 he seeks to vote for. Article 11(3) of the Access to Information Act provides that materials should be disseminated taking into account the needs of PWDs.

5 Decisions of courts and tribunals

5.1 Have the courts (or tribunals) in Sierra Leone ever decided on an issue(s) relating to disability? If so, list the cases and provide a summary for each of the cases with the facts, the decision(s) and the reasoning.

The researcher did not come across any court case relating to the rights of persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone.

6 Policies and programmes

6.1 Does Sierra Leone have policies or programmes that directly address disability? If so, list each policy and explain how the policy addresses disability.

Sierra Leone has a specific Disability Act,70 which addresses disability. Sierra Leone also has several policies that indirectly include PWDs. Some of these policies will be discussed in the next section 6.2.

6.2 Does Sierra Leone have policies and programmes that indirectly address disability? If so, list each policy and describe how the policy indirectly addresses disability.

In 2011, Sierra Leone adopted a National Social Protection Policy, which aims at providing social protection for vulnerable groups within the Sierra Leonean society including PWDs.71 In 2012, the First Lady of Sierra Leone launched the Mental Health Policy.72 One of the objectives of this policy is to ‘promote the quality of life (e.g. good health status, social inclusion) of all people with mental disability and their families in Sierra Leone’.73

In 2013, the President of Sierra Leone launched the Agenda for Prosperity,74

which is Sierra Leone’s Third Generation Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (2013-2018).75 This Strategy Paper indirectly addresses disability. Part of the health sector objectives is to provide ‘[f]ree Health Care at the point of delivery for people with disability’ and ‘[s]trengthen services aimed at providing rehabilitation equipment for people with disability’.76 Part of its Labour Market Objectives is to ‘[d]evelop a comprehensive package of innovative market-oriented entrepreneurship programmes’ that focuses on training and building the capacities of youths including PWDs. 77

The Strategic Plan (2014-2018) developed by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs also addresses disability. Significantly, the vision statement of the Strategic Plan is a ‘Sierra Leonean society where women, men, children, the elderly and people with disability live a life of dignity ... and their human rights are fully protected’.78 One of the core values of the Strategic Plan is ‘equity and equality’. In this section, ‘equal opportunities’ for all persons including PWDs is emphasised.79 The realisation of these goals entail social, political, economic and technological ramifications.80 On a social level, one of the strategic highlights is to ensure the harmonisation of customary and national laws with national instruments protecting the rights of PWDs. On the political level, one of the strategic highlights is to utilise existing mechanisms in drawing attention to the issues of PWDs. On an economic level, one of the strategic highlights is to enhance the capacities of local leaders in protecting and promoting the rights of PWDs. With the use of technology, awareness and advocacy will be furthered. One of the areas in which awareness will be raised is in relation to harmful traditional practices for women, children and PWDs. 81

7 Disability bodies

7.1 Other than the ordinary courts and tribunals, does Sierra Leone have any official body that specifically addresses violations of the rights of people with disabilities? If so, describe the body, its functions and its powers.

The Disability Act establishes a National Commission for Persons with Disability (National Commission).82 The National Commission is to be constituted of a Chairperson,83 representatives from government Ministries of ‘(i) social welfare; (ii) finance; (iii) youth and sports; (iv) health; (v) education; (vi) employment; (vii) transport; (viii) tourism and culture’;84 four representatives of the Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues and other Disabled Peoples Organisations ‘including at least one female’;85 two representatives from civil society handling disability issues86 and an Executive Secretary.87

The functions of the National Commission are provided in article 6 of the Disability Act. In line with article 6(1) of the Disability Act, the National Commission is created to ‘ensure the well-being of persons with disability’.88

Article 6(2) of the Disability Act sets out specific functions in its sub-articles (a)-(p). In accordance with article 6(2)(a)-(p) of the Disability Act, the National Commission may engage in policy formulation for the protection of PWDs; collaborate with government during national census to ensure ‘that accurate figures of persons with disability are obtained in the country’;89 advise the Minister responsible for social affairs on international treaty provisions that relate to PWDs; proffer means of ensuring that discrimination against PWDs are prevented; investigate allegations of discriminations against PWDs and produce a report on its investigation; implement programmes aimed at employment or income generation for PWDs in partnership with the Ministry responsible for social affairs; assist with rehabilitation of PWDs within their communities in Sierra Leone; direct services geared towards the welfare of PWDs in Sierra Leone and carry out counselling programmes and vocational guidance; maintain a database on PWDs, institutions providing welfare services including rehabilitation and employment; provide assistive mechanisms and access to information on technological mechanisms to organisations and institutions concerned with PWDs; support the government in the development of curriculum for ‘teacher training institutions, vocational rehabilitation centres and other facilities’ for PWDs;90 appraise and report to the ministry in charge of social affairs on the welfare of PWDs and areas of priority; ‘issue adjustment orders’ in terms of article 26;91 engage in consultation with government in relation to the provision of housing for PWDs; implement measures for public information on the rights of PWDs; and carry out such other functions in relation to the welfare of PWDs as it deems fit.

Article 7 of the Disability Act sets out the powers of the National Commission. Article 7(1) of the Disability Act provides that the National Commission ‘shall have power to do such things as are necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of its functions’. Articles 7(1)(a)-(f) of the Disability Act specifically provide for certain powers the National Commission may exercise inclusive amongst which are: to issue Permanent Disability Certificates; carry out inquiries into matters concerning the welfare of PWDs; choose an officer(s) and empower such to make investigations and report to the National Commission on infringements of the Disability Act; create committees which will be constituted of the members and non-members of the National Commission and where necessary may include experts; vest functions to the committee it creates as it may determine; and conduct research or employ the services of individuals in conducting research on the rehabilitation of PWDs. 92

Article 7(2) of the Disability Act empowers the National Commission to refer an individual who ‘without justifiable cause’ does not comply with its orders to the court for contempt. Article 7(3) of the Disability Act mandates the National Commission to ‘submit a report of any investigation’ to the Minister in charge of social affairs. In its report, the National Commission may give recommendations on compensation payments for ‘victims of discrimination’.93 In line with article 7(4) of the Disability Act, persons who are aggrieved by the recommendations of the National Commission in its report ‘may appeal to the court’. 94

The National Commission was ‘constituted by Presidential appointments, which were endorsed by Parliament in July 2012’. The Chairperson of the National Commission appointed in 2012 is Fredrick Kamara.95

7.2 Other than the ordinary courts or tribunals, does Sierra Leone have any official body that though not established to specifically address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, can nonetheless do so? If so, describe the body, its functions and its powers.

Sierra Leone has a Human Rights Commission (HRC) with a mandate of promoting and protecting human rights in Sierra Leone.96 In discharging its function, the HRC has the power, amongst other things, to investigate allegations of human rights violations, raise public awareness on human rights and issue guidelines on the obligation of public officers in relation to the protection of human rights.97 For the purpose of investigation, article 8(1)(a) of the Human Rights Commission Act vests the HRC with ‘such powers, rights and privileges as are vested in the High Court of Justice or a judge’98 in relation to summoning a witness; requiring document production; and issuing a request for the examination of a witness. Upon investigation of a matter, the HRC is mandated to issue a report99 and make orders with regards to compensation.100 By virtue of article 13, the government is mandated to ‘respond publicly and within 21 days to the specific case’.101 As the principal institution specifically created to protect human rights, the HRC has the mandate of protecting the rights of all persons in Sierra Leone including PWDs.

8 National human rights institutions, Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman or Public Protector

8.1 Does Sierra Leone have a Human Rights Commission, an Ombudsman or Public Protector? If so, does its remit include the promotion and protection of the rights of people with disabilities? If your answer is yes, also indicate whether the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman or Public Protector of Sierra Leone has ever addressed issues relating to the rights of persons with disabilities.

By virtue of the Human Rights Commission Act of 2004, Sierra Leone established the Human Rights Commission (HRC).102 In 2008, the HRC appointed a Different Abilities and Non-Discrimination Officer (DANDO) for the purpose of addressing issues relating to the rights of PWDs.103 In 2012 when the Sierra Leonean government scrapped the tactile voting system, the DANDO, Patrick James Taylor, expressed disappointment over this action.104 However, tactile ballots ‘were regrettably not available for the 2012 elections.’ 105

9 Disabled peoples organisations (DPOs) and other civil society organisations

9.1 Does Sierra Leone have organisations that represent and advocate for the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities? If so, list each organisation and describe its activities.

Sierra Leone has Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) that advocate for the rights of PWDs in Sierra Leone. These DPOs include: Sierra Leone Union of Disability Issues (SLUDI); Handicap International; Sierra Leone Association of the Blind (SLAB); Sierra Leone Association of the Deaf (SLAD); United Polio Brothers and Sisters Association (UPBSA); Sierra Leone Union of Polio Persons (SLUPP); and Leonard Cheshire Disability and Sightsavers International.

SLUDI is the national umbrella body which advocates for the rights of PWDs in Sierra Leone.106 In a press conference held on 31 March 2012, it urged the government to set up the Disability Commission.107 On 11 November 2014, it urged the National Commission to perform its responsibility.108 On 2 April 2015, SLUDI monitored 15 homes of PWDs to assess how the stay-at-home national policy in combatting Ebola in Sierra Leone has affected them. 109

Handicap International also works to promote the rights of PWDs in Sierra Leone. The projects of Handicap International ‘promote better access to jobs and education for persons with disabilities and support care providers to recognize and understand the needs of disabled people’. 110

The SLAB, which was formerly the Sierra Leone Youth Society for the Blind (SLYSB),111 promotes the rights of persons with visual impairment in Sierra Leone. SLAD, established in 1965, promotes the rights of persons with hearing impairment in Sierra Leone.112 UPBSA is a DPO that advocates for the rights of persons with polio.113 It is registered with SLUPP,114 which is an umbrella body for the promotion the rights of persons with polio in Sierra Leone. 115

Through the Young Voices project, Leonard Cheshire Disability advocates for the rights of young persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone.116 Sightsavers International has also been involved in helping persons with visual impairment. 117

9.2 In the countries in Sierra Leone’s region (West Africa) are DPOs organised/coordinated at national and/or regional level?

DPOs are usually organised at the national level. In Sierra Leone, SLUDI and SLUPP are national bodies for PWDs in Sierra Leone. In Nigeria, the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) is the umbrella body for PWDs in Nigeria.118 In Liberia, the National Union of the Disabled (NUOD), an umbrella DPO, protects the rights of PWDs in Liberia.119 In Senegal, there is the Senegalese Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FESAPH); in Togo, there is a Togolese Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FETAPH); in Benin, there is the Benin Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FAPHB); in Niger, there is the Niger Federation of Persons with Disabilities; and also in Mali there is a Malian Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FEMAPH).120 Ghana has a Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD), which is a national umbrella organisation for PWDs in Ghana.121

9.3 If Sierra Leone has ratified the CRPD, how has it ensured the involvement of DPOs in the implementation process?

In the development of the Disability Act, which mirrors the CRPD, DPOs were involved.122 One of the ways through which Sierra Leone has ensured the involvement of PWDs in the implementation process is through the specific provision for DPOs involvement in the National Commission. Article 3(1)(c) & (d) of the Disability Act specifically provides for representatives of DPOs as part of the National Commission.

9.4 What types of actions have DPOs themselves taken to ensure that they are fully embedded in the process of implementation?

DPOs have taken several actions in ensuring that they are involved in the implementation process of the CRPD through lobbying, advocacy and providing assistance to the government on disability issues. For instance, in January 2012 prior to the National Elections in Sierra Leone, SLUDI issued a 90-day ultimatum to the government to set up the National Commission in line with the Disability Act which mirrors the CRPD, failing which it threatened to boycott the voters’ registration in preparation for the election.123 The ultimatum was eventually withdrawn when the government set up a Technical Committee for the establishment of the National Commission. 124

9.5 What, if any, are the barriers DPOs have faced in engaging with implementation?

One of the barriers faced by DPOs in engaging in the implementation relates to finances. In March 2015, the president of SLUDI noted the need for financial assistance in order for the organisation to carry out ‘advocacy activities across the country’.125

9.6 Are there specific instances that provide ‘best-practice models’ for ensuring proper involvement of DPOs?

One relevant good practice from Sierra Leone in ensuring the proper involvement of DPOs relates to the provision for the involvement of civil society organisations in the composition of the National Commission. The Disability Act specifically requires that four representatives of SLUDI and organisations of PWDs should form part of the National Commission.126 The Disability Act further provides that two representatives from NGOs dealing with issues of PWDs should be included on the National Commission. 127

9.7 Are there any specific outcomes regarding successful implementation and/or improved recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities that resulted from the engagement of DPOs in the implementation process?

There are successful outcomes that resulted from the engagement of DPOs in the implementation process of the Disability Act, which mirrors the CRPD. One of such outcomes is the setting up of the National Commission, which has helped ‘tremendously in making the voices of PWDs in Sierra Leone heard nationally and globally’.128

9.8 Has your research shown areas for capacity building and support (particularly in relation to research) for DPOs with respect to their engagement with the implementation process?

One of the areas for research support in ensuring that DPOs engage in the implementation process of the Disability Act, which mirrors the CRPD, is in respect of the 2015 Population Census. DPOs need to be supported in this exercise in order to ensure that the true figures on PWDs are reflected in the 2015 Population Census results.

9.9 Are there recommendations that come out of your research as to how DPOs might be more comprehensively empowered to take a leading role in the implementation processes of international or regional instruments?

Although the government of Sierra Leone is taking significant strides in protecting PWDs nationally, it is important that PWDs are given a quota representation in the national parliament. In 2014, the African Youth with Disabilities Network (AYWDN) Sierra Leone ‘demanded that the Constitutional Review Process considers allocating a representative quota in Parliament and other key national institutions for persons with disability’.129 As at April 2015, the Constitutional Review Process was still on-going in Sierra Leone.130 This report recommends that this process should be supported in order to ensure that PWDs assume lead roles in implementing international and regional instruments in Sierra Leone.

9.10 Are there specific research institutes in the region where Sierra Leone is situated (West Africa) that work on the rights of persons with disabilities and that have facilitated the involvement of DPOs in the process, including in research?

Most of the advocacy and research on the rights of PWDs have been done by DPOs and academics involved in research on the rights of PWDs. However, on an institutional basis, there is an Educational Centre for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ECBVI), which caters for ‘over [a] hundred students’ with hearing and visual impairments.131 The ECBVI has also been involved in providing educational materials to visually impaired persons in the fight against Ebola. 132

10 Government departments

10.1 Does Sierra Leone have a government department or departments that is/are specifically responsible for promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities? If so, describe the activities of the department(s).

The Directorate of Social Welfare within the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that socially marginalised groups including PWDs are protected and that services are provided to these groups.133The Ministry of Labour and Employment is mandated to ‘support rehabilitation programs’ including ‘employment for people with mental disabilities’. 134

11 Main human rights concerns of people with disabilities in Sierra Leone

11.1 Describe the contemporary challenges of persons with disabilities, and the legal responses thereto, and assess the adequacy of these responses to:

A contemporary challenge of PWDs affecting the right to adequate standard of living, food and access to information is the Ebola crisis. The Executive Director of the ECBVI observed that the ‘National Ebola Response Centre ... and other organisations responding are neglecting the visually impaired section of the society’.135 PWDs have raised concerns about hunger and social isolation within society.136 With regards to information on the Ebola crisis to PWDs, Kamara notes that due to the fact that

people with disability and their families were not represented in planning meetings on the Ebola response, the awareness raising programs do not target persons with disability and therefore, do not reach them. 137

Huebner further notes that ‘[b]lanket Ebola awareness messages have been ineffective at reaching people with disabilities due to their geographic and social isolation’.138 Responses to the situation have largely come from civil society organisations working to provide food, water, assistive devices, and shelter to assist PWDs in the face of the Ebola crisis.139 However, Kamara notes that ‘food and access to clean water is required, especially for those with young children’.140 Kamara further emphasises the need for ‘medical attention; ideally, a specific medical team for persons with disabilities, as they are 10 times more vulnerable to the virus than others’.141

11.2 Do people with disabilities have a right to participation in political life (political representation and leadership) in Sierra Leone?

Although the Disability Act does not specifically provide for the right to political participation for PWDs, the Disability Act mandates the National Election Commission to ‘ensure that during elections, polling stations are made accessible to persons with disability and ... provide such persons with the necessary assistive devices and services’.142 By virtue of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, PWDs, as others in the society, can participate in the politics of Sierra Leone. In 2007, Julius Nye Cuffie became the first physically challenged person elected as a member of parliament.143 Following re-election in November 2012, President Koroma appointed a visually impaired person as Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs. 144

11.3 Are people with disabilities’ socio-economic rights, including the right to health, education and other social services protected and realised in your country?

Article 17(1) of the Disability Act provides that ‘[e]very person with disability shall be provided with free medical services in public health institutions’.145 Article 14(1) of the Disability Act also provides that ‘[e]very person with disability shall have a right to free education in tertiary institutions’.146 Article 15(1) of the Disability Act further provides that ‘[a] person with disability shall not be denied admission to or expelled from an educational institution by reason only of his disability’.147 In realising the right to health, the Agenda for Prosperity launched by the President of Sierra Leone for 2013-2018 emphasises free Health Care for PWDs.148 Sierra Leone also has a Social Insurance Trust run by the National Social Security and Insurance Trust which ‘operates a contributory scheme that caters for the security of contributors at old age or in the case of disability’.149 In 2007, Sierra Leone developed a Social Safety Net system which seeks to provide for the vulnerable including PWDs.150 In 2014, the World Bank ‘approved support’ for the Social Safety Net system developed by Sierra Leone. 151

11.4 Case studies of specific vulnerable groups

Children with disabilities have little to no access to education. Foday-Musa notes that ‘[m]ost of the Children who have attained the age of going to school have become street beggars, roaming about to fend for their daily bread ’.152 Children,

particularly girls with disabilities also face sexual and physical abuse.153 These abuses are often at the hand of family, community members and traditional healers. According to Banjura ‘[s]exual abuse of young disabled girls is common’.154 Banjura notes that there are occasions where traditional healers engage in sexual relations with girls as part of the healing process. Coe notes that ‘[i]n Sierra Leone, children who are deaf and not able to speak were described as the group most vulnerable to abuse, as they could not easily tell of their abuse’.155 In one case, a child with cerebral palsy was buried alive due to the belief that the child was bewitched.156 Powell notes that ‘[c]onfused and frustrated by the child’s inability to talk or walk’, it was ‘proclaimed that child must be bewitched’. According to Kumar ‘[i]n Sierra Leone, it is common for children who are blind or suffering polio to be branded a “devil”’. 157

12 Future perspective

12.1 Are there any specific measures with regard to persons with disabilities being debated or considered in Sierra Leone at the moment?

Sierra Leone is currently undergoing a Constitution Review Process. In a 2014 public consultation with SLUDI, one of the issues raised was that there should be a Ministry on Disability Issues reflected in the Constitution. The AYWDN Sierra Leone has also demanded for the allocation of a quota for PWDs in parliament and other important national institutions. 158

12.2 What legal reforms would you like to see in Sierra Leone? Why?

One significant legal reform that the author would like to see in Sierra Leone is the revision of the discrimination provision in the Constitution. Article 27(3) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone list grounds on which discrimination is prohibited but does not mention disability. This legal reform is important for the adequate protection of PWDs and also in line with the obligation of Sierra Leone under article 4(1)(a) & (b) of the CRPD which mandate states take steps towards protecting the rights of PWDs.


1. M Ovadiya& G Zampaglione Escaping stigma and neglect: People with disabilities in Sierra Leone (2009) 7; AC Thomas ‘2004 population and housing census of Sierra Leone: Population profile of Sierra Leone’ Sierra Leone Union for Population Studies: 2004 Census Population Series 1 (2010) 85 http://www.statistics.sl/reports_to_publish_2010/population_profile_of_sierra_leone_2010.pdf (accessed 25 June 2015).

2. Statistics Sierra Leone ‘Final results: 2004 population and housing census’ (2006) http://www. sierra-leone.org/Census/ssl_final_results.pdf (accessed 6 April 2015).

3. World Bank ‘Sierra Leone’ http://data.worldbank.org/country/sierra-leone (accessed 6 April 2015).

4. See Thomas (n 1 above).

5. Thomas (n 1 above) 85.

6. Although this figure has been criticised as being ‘underestimated’ and statistical projections suggest that an estimate of about 526000 PWDs are in Sierra Leone, the 2004 Population Census figure of 119, 260 is the official statistical data. Ovadiya & Zampaglione (n 1 above) 6-7; United Nations Integrated Peace Building Office in Sierra Leone & United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner ‘Moving forward together: From national commitment to concrete action’ Report on the rights of persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone (2011) 11 http://unipsil.unmissions.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=HNvCvCysVLQ%3D&tabid=9611&language=en-US (accessed 6 April 2015); United Nations Economic Commission for Africa ‘Africa Regional Report: Main findings and recommendations’ African Regional Conference on Population and Development, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, UN Doc ECA/ICPD/MIN/2013/2 (3 September 2013) 13.

7. Ovadiya & Zampaglione (n 1 above) 7.

8. United Nations Children’s Fund ‘Multiple indicator cluster survey 2005’ T68 http://www. childinfo.org/files/MICS3_SierraLeone_FinalReport_2005_Eng.zip (accessed 6 April 2015).

9. Advocacy Movement Network ‘The effect of armed conflict on people living with disabilities in Africa: Case study - Sierra Leone’ (2012) http://www.csoforum.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/people_living_with_disability__2012.ppt (accessed 6 April 2015).

10. Thomas (n 1 above) 88.

11. United Nations Enable ‘Convention & Optional Protocol signatures and ratification’ http://www.un.org/disabilities/countries.asp?navid=12&pid=166 (accessed 6 April 2015).

12. As above.

13. As above.

14. United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone & United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (n 6 above) 15; Permanent Mission of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the United Nations Statement by HE Mr Shekou Momodu Touray, Ambassador & Permanent Representative at the Fourth session of the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, New York (8 September 2011) http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/COP/cosp4_statement_sierra_leone.doc (accessed 6 April 2015).

15. Reporting status for Sierra Leone http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/TreatyBodyExternal/countries.aspx?CountryCode=SLE&Lang=EN (accessed 25 June 2015).

16. As above.

17. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC).

18. Consideration of reports submitted by state parties under article 44 of the Convention: Second periodic report of states parties due in 1997: Sierra Leone, UN Doc CRC/C/SLE/2 (8 September 2006) http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC% 2fC%2fSLE%2f2&Lang=en (accessed 6 April 2015).

19. CRC/C/SLE/2 (n 18 above) para 231.

20. Consideration of reports submitted by state parties under article 44 of the Convention: Concluding observations: Sierra Leone, adopted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc CRC/C/SLE/CO/2 (20 June 2008) para 49 http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybody external/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC%2fC%2fSLE%2fCO%2f2&Lang=en (accessed 6 April 2015).

21. CRC/C/SLE/CO/2 (n 20 above).

22. Consideration of reports submitted by states parties under article 44 of the Convention: Combined third, fourth and fifth periodic reports of states parties due in 2012: Sierra Leone, UN Doc CRC/C/SLE/3-5 (27 January 2015) http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download. aspx?symbolno=CRC%2fC%2fSLE%2f3-5&Lang=en (accessed 6 April 2015).

23. The Persons with Disability Act 22 of 2011 (Disability Act).

24. The Child Right Act 43 of 2007.

25. The National Youth Commission Act 11 of 2009; See CRC/C/SLE/3-5 (n 22 above) para 104(i).

26. CRC/C/SLE/3-5 (n 22 above) para 104(ii).

27. Ratification, reporting & documentation for Sierra Leone http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/TreatyBodyExternal/Countries.aspx (accessed 6 April 2015).

28. Consideration of reports submitted by state parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women: Sixth periodic reports of states parties due in 2009: Sierra Leone, UN Doc CEDAW/C/SLE/6 (1 November 2012) http://tbinter net.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fSLE%2f 6&Lang=en (accessed 6 April 2015).

29. Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Sierra Leone, adopted by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, UN Doc CEDAW/C/SLE/CO/6 (10 March 2014) para 38 http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download. aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fSLE%2fCO%2f6&Lang=en (accessed 6 April 2015).

30. CEDAW/C/SLE/CO/6 (n 29 above) para 39.

31. Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs ‘Strategic Plan 2014-2018’ (2013) para 2.2 http://mswgca.gov.sl/attachments/Documents/MSWGCA%202014-2018%20Strategic%20Plan. pdf (accessed 6 April 2015).

32. Consideration of reports submitted by states parties under article 19 of the Convention, initial reports of states parties due in 2002: Sierra Leone, para 11(i), UN Doc CAT/C/SLE/1 (9 September 2013) http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbol no=CAT%2fC%2fSLE%2f1&Lang=en (accessed 6 April 2015).

33. Concluding observations on the initial report of Sierra Leone, adopted by the UN Committee against Torture, UN Doc CAT/C/SLE/CO/1 (20 June 2014) http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts /treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CAT%2fC%2fSLE%2fCO%2f1&Lang=en (accessed 6 April 2015).

34. National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 15(a) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1: Sierra Leone, UN Doc A/HRC/WG.6/11/SLE/1 (14 February 2011) para 36.

35. A/HRC/WG.6/11/SLE/1 (n 34 above) para 37.

36. Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Sierra Leone, UN Doc A/HRC/18/10, paras 80.1; 80.23

37. A/HRC/18/10 (n 36 above) para 81.17.

38. African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights 1981 (African Charter).

39. Disability Act (n 23 above).

40. African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Initial to date following article of the Charter report submitted by Sierra Leone (2013) http://www.achpr.org/files/sessions/53rd/state-reports/1st-1983-2013/statrep_1983_2013_eng.pdf (accessed 6 April 2015).

41. African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (n 40 above)19.

42. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights ‘Sierra Leone’ http://www.achpr.org/states/sierra-leone/ (accessed 6 April 2015).

43. African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1990 (African Children’s Charter).

44. African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: Table of ratification of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and submission of reports on the implementation of the Charter http://acerwc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Ratification-and-reports-submission-table-of-the-African-Childrens-Charter-.pdf (accessed 6 April 2015).

45. As above.

46. CRC (n 17 above) art 4.

47. African Charter (n 38 above) art 1.

48. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) art 2(a).

49. African Children’s Charter (n 43 above) art 1(1).

50. Child Rights Act (n 24 above).

51. As above.

52. JS Margai ‘Sierra Leone prepares to report on CEDAW’ Premier Media Group Ltd 5 February 2014 http://premiermedia.sl/content/sierra-leone-prepares-report-cedaw (accessed 6 April 2015); A Samba ‘Sierra Leone news: First Lady assures women on CEDAW domestication’ Awareness Times 15 May 2014 http://news.sl/drwebsite/publish/article_200525395.shtml (accessed 6 April 2015).

53. African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Initial to date following article of the Charter report submitted by Sierra Leone (n 40 above).

54. A Marrah ‘Sierra Leone’ in The impact of the African Charter and Women’s Protocol in selected African states (2012) 153.

55. Marrah (n 54 above) 156.

56. As above.

57. See United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone & United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (n 6 above) 12; Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991.

58. Constitution of Sierra Leone (n 57 above).

59. Constitution of Sierra Leone (n 57 above) art 8(2)(a).

60. Disability Act (n 23 above).

61. As above.

62. Disability Act (n 23 above) art2(1).

63. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 6(1).

64. Sexual Offences Act 60 of 2012.

65. Right to Access Information Act 62 of 2013.

66. Education Act 19 of 2004, art 4(2).

67. The Sexual Offences Act (n 64 above) art 8(1).

68. As above.

69. Public Election Act 26 of 2012, art 74(1)(i).

70. Disability Act (n 23 above).

71. The Republic of Sierra Leone ‘National Draft Policy Framework for Social Protection in Sierra Leone’ (2009) http://www.fao.org/docs/up/easypol/forum/31/31_National_Draft_Policy_for_ Social_Protection_in_Sierra_Leone.pdf (accessed 8 April 2015); The Government of Sierra Leone ‘The Agenda for prosperity: Road to middle income status’ (2013) 107 (Agenda for Prosperity) http://www.undp.org/content/dam/sierraleone/docs/projectdocuments/povreduction/undp_sle_ The%20Agenda%20for%20Prosperity%20.pdf (accessed 8 April 2015).

72. Mental Health Coalition in Sierra Leone ‘Sierra Leone Mental Health Policy launched by first lady’ 15 October 2012.

73. Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Republic of Sierra Leone ‘Mental Health Policy’ 9 http://www. whosierraleone.org/1_docs/mohspartnersdocs/mental_health_policy.pdf (accessed 8 April 2015).

74. Agenda for Prosperity (n 71 above).

75. This policy builds on Sierra Leone’s Second Poverty Reduction Strategy titled ‘Agenda for Change’. See The Republic of Sierra Leone ‘Agenda for change: Second poverty reduction strategy (PRSP II): 2009-2012’ (Agenda for Change) http://unipsil.unmissions.org/portals/unipsil/media/publi cations/agenda_for_change.pdf (accessed 8 April 2015); ‘Agenda for prosperity road to middle income status’ Mysierrialeoneonline.com 12 April 2013 http://mysierraleoneonline.com/sl_portal/site/news/detail/1553 (accessed 8 April 2015); the REDD desk ‘The Agenda for Prosperity: Third generation poverty reduction strategy paper (2013-2018)’ http://theredddesk.org/countries/plans/agenda-prosperity-sierra-leones-third-generation-poverty-reduction-strategy-paper (accessed 8 April 2015).

76. Agenda for Prosperity (n 71 above) 67.

77. Agenda for Prosperity (n 71 above) 101.

78. Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (n 31 above) para 2.2.

79. Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (n 31 above) para 2.3.

80. Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (n 31 above) para 3.1.

81. Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (n 31 above) 35.

82. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 2(1).

83. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 2(3)(a).

84. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 2(3)(b).

85. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 2(3)(c).

86. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 2(3)(d).

87. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 2(3)(e).

88. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 6(1).

89. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 6(2)(b).

90. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 6(k).

91. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 6(m); article 26 of the Disability Act empowers the National Commission to issue adjustment orders where it ‘considers that any public premises are inaccessible to persons with disability by reason of any structural, physical or other impediment’. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 26(1).

92. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 7(2)(a)-(f).

93. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 7(3).

94. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 7(4).

95. State House Communication Unit ‘I will promote the interest of persons with disability’ (2012) http://www.statehouse.gov.sl/index.php/component/content/article/529-qi-will-promote-the-inte rest-of-persons-with-disabilityq (accessed 25 June 2015); ‘Disability Commissioner urges President Koroma’ African Young Voices 6 August 2012 http://africayoungvoices.com/2012/08/disability-commissioner-urges-president-koroma/ (accessed 8 April 2015); Statement delivered by Frederick JM Kamara, Chairman and Chief Commissioner of Sierra Leone National Commission for Persons with Disability at the 6th Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities held in New York on 19 July 2013 http://news.sl/drwebsite/exec/view.cgi?archive=9&num=23297 (accessed 8 April 2015).

96. The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act, 2004, art 2(1) (HRC Act) http://www.sierra-leone.org/Laws/2004-9p.pdf (accessed 9 April 2015).

97. HRC Act (n 96 above) art 7(2).

98. HRC Act (n 96 above) art 8(1)(a).

99. HRC Act (n 96 above) art 10(b).

100. HRC Act (n 96 above) art 11.

101. HRC Act (n 96 above) art 13.

102. HRC Act (n 96 above).

103. Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone ‘Comments and advice on the letter from UNHRC to National human rights institutions in relation to Human Rights Council 7/9 title “Human rights of persons with disabilities”’ http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disability/docs/consultation/NHRIs/SierraLeoneHumanRightsCommission16092008.doc (accessed 9 April 2015); Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ‘Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - Resolution 10/7 on the human rights of persons with disabilities: National frameworks for the protection and promotion of the human rights of persons with disabilities’ http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disability/docs/Sierra_Leone_HumanRightsCommission.doc (accessed 9 April 2015); United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone & United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (n 6 above) 18.

104. S Banugra& L Powell ‘Sierra Leone scraps tactile voting system for elections’ The Guardian 16 November 2012 http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2012/nov/16/sierra-leone-tac tile-voting-elections (accessed 9 April 2015).

105. The Carter Center ‘Observing Sierra Leone’s November 2012 national elections: final report’ (2013) 31-32 https://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/news/peace_publications/election_reports/sierra-leone-final-101613.pdf (accessed 9 April 2015).

106. ‘SLUDI gets new president’ Cotton Tree News 12 December 2008 http://www.cottontreenews.org/home-mainmenu-1/1-latest/1516-sludi-gets-new-president (accessed 9 April 2015); CO O’Sullivan & M MacLachlan ‘Childhood disability in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone: An exploratory analysis’ in M MacLachlan& L Swartz Disability & international development: Towards inclusive global health (2009) 168.

107. MT Kamara ‘In Sierra Leone, SLUDI urges government to set up commission’ Awareness Times 2 April 2012 http://news.sl/drwebsite/exec/view.cgi?archive=8&num=19983 (accessed 9 April 2015).

108. I Mansaray ‘SLUDI accuses disability commission’ The New Citizen 11 November 2014 http://www.newctzen.com/index.php/politics/11-news/1190-sludi-accuses-disability-commission (accessed 9 April 2015).

109. I Mansaray ‘SLUDI monitors 15 disabled homes’ The New Citizen 2 April 2015 http://www. newctzen.com/index.php/11-news/2397-sludi-monitors-15-disabled-homes (accessed 9 April 2015).

110. Handicap International ‘Sierra Leone’ http://www.handicap-international.org.uk/where_ we_work/africa/sierra_leone (accessed 9 April 2015).

111. ‘New York: SLDC chairman addresses UN body’ The Patriotic Vanguard 24 July 2013 http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/new-york-sldc-chairman-addresses-un-body (accessed 9 April 2015).

113. R Alamo & GT Diagne ‘Sierra Leone: getting involved in electoral processes - From local to national’ in International Disability Alliance (IDA) Human Rights Publication Series Issue 1 - The right to vote and stand for elections (March 2013) http://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/sites/disalliance.e-presentaciones.net/files/public/files/HI_Sierra%20Leone_%20Getting%20invol ved%20in%20electoral%20processes,%20from%20local%20to%20national.pdf (accessed 13 April 2015).

114. Alamo & Diagne (n 113 above).

115. J Hollet & AB Munu ‘Government discussion turns to issues of the disabled in Sierra Leone’ Premier News (Freetown) 29 July2010 http://www.jhr.ca/success/2010/07/government-discussion-turns-to-issues-of-the-disabled-in-sierra-leone/ (accessed 13 April 2015); R Horvath et al ‘Omega initiative: Sierra Leone trip report’ (2002) 7 http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNACR257.pdf (accessed 13 April 2015).

116. ‘Human rights and democracy: Bringing to life the UN Convention on rights of persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone’ http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/documents/case-studies/sierra-leone_ human-rights_uncrpd_en.pdf (accessed 13 April 2015); Leonard Cheshire Disability ‘Young voices: Speaking out for the rights of people with disabilities’ http://youngvoices.leonardcheshire.org/category/sierra-leone/ (accessed 13 April 2015).

117. Sightsavers ‘A chance to shine’ http://www.sightsavers.net/our_work/around_the_world/west_ africa/sierra_leone/11027.html (accessed 13 April 2015).

118. UN Enable ‘List of non-governmental organization accredited to the Conference of States Parties’ http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1482 (accessed 13 April 2015).

119. C Brooks ‘NUOD elects new officials for 4-year term’ Liberia News Agency 10 April 2015 http://www.liberianewsagency.org/pagesnews.php?nid=4522 (accessed 13 April 2015).

120. West African regional portal on the rights of people with disabilities http://proadiph.org/-Les-partenaires-.html?lang=en (accessed 13 April 2015).

121. Ghana Federation of the Disabled ‘Overview of GFD’ http://www.gfdgh.org/ (accessed 13 April 2015).

122. Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (n 103 above).

123. Alamo & Diagne (n 113 above).

124. As above.

125. AB Barrie ‘S/Leone Union on Disability Issues needs Le150m to build secretariat’ Premier Media Group Ltd 17 March 2015 http://premiermedia.sl/content/sleone-union-disability-issues-needs-le150m-build-secretariat (accessed 13April 2015).

126. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 3(1)(c).

127. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 3(1)(d).

128. Awareness Times ‘Sierra Leone making headway on disability issues - NCPWD Executive Secretary‘Mysierraleoneonline.com 27 July 2013 http://mysierraleoneonline.com/sl_portal/site/news/detail/1696 (accessed 13 April 2015).

129. KM Jaward ‘Sierra Leone news: AYWDN-SL demands representation quota for persons with disability’ Awoko 30 June 2014 http://awoko.org/2014/06/30/sierra-leone-news-aywdn-sl-demands-representation-quota-for-persons-with-disability/ (accessed 13April 2015).

130. P Sama ‘Sierra Leone news: NCD translates constitutional review materials in local languages’ Awoko 10 April 2015 http://awoko.org/2015/04/11/sierra-leone-news-ncd-translates-constitu tional-review-materials-in-local-languages/ (accessed 13 April 2015).

131. Executive director of the Educational Centre for the Blind and Visually Impaired Thomas Allieu calls on government and humanitarian organisations to support them with transportation Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation 8 April 2015 http://www.slbc.sl/executive-director-of-the-edu cational-centre-for-the-blind-and-visually-impaired-thomas-allieu-calls-on-government-and-humani tarian-organisations-to-support-them-with-transportation/ (accessed 13 April 2015).

132. ‘The challenges faced by the visually impaired fighting ebola in Sierra Leone’ ActionAid 20 February 2015 http://www.actionaid.org/2015/02/challenges-faced-visually-impaired-fighting-ebola-sierra-leone (accessed 13 April 2015).

133. Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (n 31 above) 45.

134. Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Republic of Sierra Leone (n 73 above) 17.

135. ActionAid (n 132 above).

136. Disabled most at risk as Sierra Leone fights Ebola Channel 4 News 26 September 2014 http://www. channel4.com/news/ebola-sierra-leone-disabled-elderly-vulnerable-lockdown (accessed 13 April 2015).

137. ‘Joseph Kamara - Sierra Leone - Ebola, another setback for people with disability’ Children in Crisis 13 October 2015 https://childrenincrisis.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/joseph-kamara-sierra-leone-another-setback-for-people-with-disability/ (accessed 13 April 2015).

138. A Huebner ‘Ebola’s forgotten victims’ Huffington Post 11 November 2014 http://www. huffingtonpost.com/adam-huebner/ebolas-forgotten-victims_b_6171810.html (accessed 13 April 2015).

139. As above; Children in Crisis (n 137 above); L Pelton ‘Food and health education in fight against Ebola’ Global Giving 23 February 2015 http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/ebola-healthcare-crisis-epidemic-in-sierra-leone/updates/?subid=54986 (accessed 13 April 2015); K Mansaray ‘People with disabilities in Sierra Leone are more vulnerable to Ebola’ Ebola Deeply 5 March 2015 http://www.eboladeeply.org/articles/2015/03/7465/people-disabilities-sierra-leone-vulnerable-ebola/ (accessed 13 April 2015).

140. K Mansaray (n 139 above).

141. As above.

142. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 29.

143. AK Kabia ‘Hon Julius Nye Cuffie (APC)’ Awareness Times 20 June 2008 http://news.sl/drwebsite/exec/view.cgi?archive=5&num=8872 (accessed 13 April 2015).

144. ‘Interview: Sierra Leone’s first blind minister’ Politico 31 January 2013 http://politicosl.com/2013/02/interview-sierra-leone%E2%80%99s-first-blind-minister/ (accessed 13 April 2015).

145. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 17(1).

146. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 14(1).

147. Disability Act (n 23 above) art 15(1).

148. Agenda for Prosperity (n 71 above) 67.

149. Agenda for Change (n 75 above) 92.

150. F Oddsdottir ‘Social protection programmes for people with disabilities’ (2014) 11 http://www. gsdrc.org/docs/open/HDQ1137.pdf (accessed 13 April 2015).

151. ‘World Bank to help Sierra Leone build social safety net’ The World Bank 25 March 2014 http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/03/25/world-bank-sierra-leone-social-safety-net (accessed 13 April 2015).

152. T Foday-Musa ‘The plight of people with disabilities in post-conflict Sierra Leone’ The Patriotic Vanguard 19 October 2010 http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/the-plight-of-people-with-disabilities-in-post-conflict-sierra-leone (accessed 13 April 2015).

153. L Powell ‘Beyond beliefs’ The Guardian 19 November 2010 http://www.theguardian.com/journalismcompetition/sierra-leone-street-children (accessed 13 April 2015).

154. As above.

155. S Coe ‘Outside the circle: A research initiative of Plan International into the rights of children with disabilities to education and protection in West Africa’ (2013) 26 http://www.plan-uk.org/assets/Documents/pdf/26374/outside-the-circle (accessed 13 April 2015).

156. Powell (n 153 above).

157. D Kumar ‘Africa’s disabled cursed by apathy and abuse’ Al Jazeera 23 September 2013 http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/09/2013922121017135639.html (accessed 13 April 2015).

158. Jaward (n 129 above).


  • Itumeleng Shale
  • LLB (NUL), LLM – Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (UP), PhD Candidate (Wits)
  • Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, National University of Lesotho, Advocate of the Courts of Lesotho

  • I Shale ‘Country report: Lesotho’ (2015) 3 African Disability Rights Yearbook 183-202
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2413-7138/2015/v3n1a8
  • Download article in PDF

1 Population indicators

1.1 What is the total population of Lesotho?

Lesotho’s last population and housing census was in 2006 and reflected a population of 1 880 661.1 By the end of 2014 the population was estimated at 2 074 465 people.2

1.2 Describe the methodology used to obtain the statistical data on the prevalence of disability in Lesotho. What criteria are used to determine who falls within the class of persons with disabilities in Lesotho?

Statistical data on the prevalence of disability in Lesotho is reflected in the 2006 Housing and Population Census conducted by the Bureau of Statistics. The data was obtained through scientific data collection where enumerators went from house to house asking questions related to education, sex, age, disability, household characteristics, housing amenities and others.3

Similar tools were used in 2010 in the study on the living conditions of persons with disabilities:

  • Households were screened in order to identify households in which there are persons with disabilities (PWDs).
  • Face-to-face interviews were conducted in selected households with both PWDs and non-disabled members of the households.
  • Questionnaires were administered. There were specific questions designed for PWDs and there were also those designed for PWDs’ household members as well as those for households where there were no PWDs.4
  • The criteria used in the living conditions study to determine who falls within the class of PWDs in Lesotho were based on the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH).5
  • There were six disability types (that is, core domains) registered in the study. These were vision, mobility, hearing, remembering, self-care and communicating.6
  • The selection also considered an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these, whether present from birth, or occurring during a person's lifetime
1.3 What is the total number and percentage of persons with disabilities in Lesotho?

According to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s (which is currently divided into two separate individual ministries) National Disability and Rehabilitation Policy (NDRP) 2011,7 Lesotho has a very limited coordinated disability database to provide statistics of persons with disabilities.8

Several institutions such as the Ministry of Education and Training and Ministry of Development Planning undertook studies in the early 2000s to estimate the population of people with disabilities in Lesotho. The two ministries estimated the population of people with disabilities at 4,2 per cent (Bureau of Statistics, 2002) and 5,2 per cent (Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, 2008).9

For the first time in census history the Bureau of Statistics (BOS) included questions on disabilities during the 2006 Population and Housing Census. The results of the census were presented for the first time to stakeholders in December 2009 and they indicate that 3,7 per cent of the total population of Lesotho has some form of disability of which 2,1 per cent constitute males and 1,6 per cent females.

The methodology used in obtaining this data is as reflected in 1.2 above.

1.4 What is the total number and percentage of women with disabilities in Lesotho?

The total number of women with disabilities (WWDs) is estimated at 33 191 which is 1,6 per cent of total population.10

1.5 What is the total number and percentage of children with disabilities in Lesotho?

Reliable estimates could not be ascertained due to lack of statistics, but the Ministry of Education and Training database shows that out of the total enrolment of 424 855 pupils, a staggering 5,2 per cent (22 233) had a disability of one form or another.11

1.6 What are the most prevalent forms of disability and/or peculiarities to disability in Lesotho?

The most prevalent forms of disabilities in Lesotho are visual, hearing, mobility, remembering, self-care and communication impairments.12

2 Lesotho’s international obligations

2.1 What is the status of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Lesotho? Did Lesotho sign and ratify the CRPD? Provide the date(s).

Lesotho ratified the CRPD on 2 December 2008.

2.2 If Lesotho has signed and ratified the CRPD, when was its country report due? Which government department is responsible for submission of the report? Did Lesotho submit its report? If so, and if the report has been considered, indicate if there was a domestic effect of this reporting process. If not, what reasons does the relevant government department give for the delay?

Lesotho’s first country report was due in 2010. The Human Rights Unit in the Ministry of Law and Constitutional Affairs in collaboration with other ministries including the Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are responsible for submission of the report. Lesotho has not yet submitted its initial report. Reasons advanced for failure to submit the reports on time include lack of financial and technical resources.13

2.3 While reporting under various other United Nations instruments, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, or the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, did Lesotho also report specifically on the rights of persons with disabilities in its most recent reports? If so, were relevant ‘concluding observations’ adopted? If relevant, were these observations given effect to? Was mention made of disability rights in your state’s UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR)? If so, what was the effect of these observations/recommendations?

Lesotho is a state party to several international human rights instruments under both the UN and AU auspices. The majority if not all the treaties to which Lesotho is a party require states parties to submit periodic reports. The same is required by other UN and AU human rights implementation mechanisms such the Universal Periodic Review of the UN and the African Peer Review Mechanism of the AU. Whilst the extensive ratification of international human rights instruments by Lesotho is highly commended, regrettably almost all Lesotho’s reports which would reflect the extent to which Lesotho has implemented the human rights contained in these instruments are overdue. As far as disability is concerned, Lesotho’s reports reflect the following:

  • Lesotho’s reports to the UN treaty bodies

As far as the international human rights instruments adopted by the UN are concerned, Lesotho’s latest reports are:

  • Initial report to Human Rights Committee (HRC) which oversees implementation of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966 which was due in 1993 but submitted in 1998; this report does not mention disability even in the paragraph where it reports on measures that the country has taken to implement the non-discrimination provisions of the ICCPR.
  • Fourteenth periodic report to Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) submitted in 1998: the report does not make reference to disability.
  • Initial Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which was due in 1994 but was submitted in 1998: Part IV (A) of the report is specific on the measures taken in relation to children with disabilities. It makes reference to section 33 of the Constitution of Lesotho 1993 which provides for rehabilitation, training and social resettlement of PWDs. It also refers to the efforts of the government towards enactment of the disability legislation.14
  • Combination of initial to fourth report to Committee on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which was submitted in 2010: This report refers to disability when reporting on the administrative measures that Lesotho has taken to implement CEDAW. It states that Lesotho has adopted the Gender and Development Policy 2003,15 the aim of which is to ensure that Lesotho builds ‘a nation that perceives women, men, girls and boys as equal partners based upon the principle of equal participation in development’. The report links this policy with the principle of gender equality as contained in the Constitution of Lesotho as well as the National Vision 2020,16 which specifically states that ‘men, women and people with disabilities will be equal before the law’.17 Reference is also made to the National Reproductive Health Policy 2008,18 which considers special needs of different target populations and the need to abide by conventions guarding against discrimination on the basis of several grounds including disability.19 Lesotho also reported its activism strategies including commemoration of the International Day for Persons with Disabilities.20
  • Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Lesotho submitted to its first UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 22 February 2010 and the same was considered by the working group on UPR between 1 and 14 May 2010.

  • The report mentioned disability rights under the caption ‘elimination of discrimination against vulnerable groups’. It indicated that the government of Lesotho has adopted several measures to cater for the needs of PWDs. These measures include establishment of a Rehabilitation Unit in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare whose main aim is empowerment and rehabilitation of PWDs; establishment of Special Education Unit in the Ministry of Education; and adoption of a Community Based Rehabilitation Programme. The report also indicates that the government has adopted measures for inclusion of PWDs by sponsoring their sporting activities as well as using and encouraging the use of disability inclusive Information Communication Technology.
  • Argentina and Spain recommended that Lesotho ratifies the Optional Protocol to CRPD (CRPD-OP). These recommendations were noted by Lesotho. Lesotho’s response in this regard was that she will consider ratification of this Optional Protocol after consultation with relevant stakeholders. However she will not be bound in respect of this recommendation.21

Following this first cycle of the UPR, Lesotho adopted the National Disability and Rehabilitation Policy 201122 which focuses on disability as a human rights issue and recognises that PWDs should have equal access to education, training, employment, health and other human rights. The Children’s Protection and Welfare Act 201123 which has extensive provisions on protection of children with disabilities in line with the CRPD was also enacted.

Lesotho’s second UPR report was reviewed on January 2015. As far as disability is concerned, Lesotho reported on transformation of the Department of Social Welfare which was within the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare into an independent Ministry of Social Development.

    • According to the report, this new ministry ‘focuses on the protection of the rights of PWDs, orphans and other vulnerable groups through self-sufficiency initiatives as opposed to social welfare approach which was residual and remedial hence resulting in dependency and stigma among beneficiaries’.24 Within the Ministry of Social Development, there is the Department of Disability Services which is tasked with dealing with issues relating to PWDs.
    • The report also highlights advocacy efforts that Lesotho has taken in order to disseminate information on disability and the rights of PWDs.25
    • Amongst the recommendations made, Libya recommended that Lesotho should incorporate the provisions of the CRPD into the national legal framework and ensure equal work opportunities for PWDs. This recommendation has been accepted by Lesotho.
    • Benin’s recommendation that Lesotho ratify the OP-CRPD has been deferred.
    • Lesotho’s reports under other African Human Rights mechanisms

(1) First periodic report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1991 - 2000) submitted on 1 August 2000: Paragraph 1.11(a) reports on measures that Lesotho has take to ‘improve [the] disabled’. The state reported that the government has ‘declared its policy on disabled children through the [then] department of Social Welfare’s NDRP 2008’.26 The quoted aims of the policy include reduction of dependency of PWDs on others, promotion of self-reliance, rehabilitation services for PWDs with special needs, expansion of skills training services, integration of PWDs into education, training and employment programmes alongside other non-disabled persons.27

(2) First Periodic Report to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights of the Child submitted in 2014: Efforts to obtain copy of the report were unsuccessful.

2.4 Was there any domestic effect on Lesotho’s legal system after ratifying the international or regional instruments in 2.3 above? Does the international or regional instrument that has been ratified require Lesotho’s legislature to incorporate it into the legal system before the instrument can have force in Lesotho’s domestic law? Have Lesotho’s courts ever considered this question? If so, cite the case(s).

As a dualist country, international human rights instruments have to be incorporated into domestic laws before they can have the force of law in Lesotho. This question has been considered by the courts of law in a number of cases. The earliest case was one shortly after independence, Joe Molefi v Legal Advisor and Others28 in which the appellant sought an order declaring that he is a refugee as contemplated by the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The Convention had been ratified by the United Kingdom during the time when Lesotho was its protectorate and was also extended to Lesotho. One of the questions raised in this case was whether that Convention could be regarded as part of the municipal law and therefore applicable to the Petitioner as contemplated by section 38 of the Aliens Control Act on which the Petitioner relied. The Court held that the Petitioner could not rely on the Convention since it was not domesticated.

Similarly, in Basotho National Party and Another v Government of Lesotho and Others,29 the applicants, a political party that had just lost the 2002 general elections, sought an order that the court direct the Government of Lesotho to take necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes, to adopt such legislative and other measures necessary to give effect to the rights recognised in international conventions such as the Universal Declaration 1948, African Charter and others.

The Court explicitly stated that these Conventions cannot form part of the laws of Lesotho until they are incorporated into municipal law by legislative enactment. It stressed that:

The court cannot usurp the functions assigned the executive and the legislature under the Constitution and it cannot even require the executive to indirectly introduce a particular legislation or the legislature to pass it or assume itself a supervisory function over the law-making activities of the executive and the legislature.

The two cases cited above illustrate a strict dualist approach in that the courts rejected reliance on international human rights instruments and insisted on domestic legislation. However, the other cases of Molefi Tsepe v IEC & Others,30 Fuma v Commander LDF and Others,31 and Senate Gabasheane Masupha v Senior

Resident Magistrate for the District of Berea and Others,32 present a totally different approach that the same High Court of Lesotho and Court of Appeal (both sitting in their constitutional jurisdiction) took to applicability of undomesticated international human rights instruments in Lesotho.

In the Molefo Tsepe case, the Court was called on to declare the Local Government Elections Act 1998 (as amended by an Amendment Act of 2005), which reserved one third quota of all Local Government seats for women, discriminatory and unconstitutional. The Court held that there was no discrimination in the Act and relied on articles 3 and 26 of ICCPR, General Comment 18 of the Human Rights Committee, articles 3 and 4 of CEDAW, article 18(3) and (4) of African Charter as well as the SADC Declaration on Gender Equality. The Court stated that:

If regard be had to Lesotho’s international law obligations, these, if anything, reinforce the interpretation of section 18(4)(e) of the Constitution and require equality which is substantive and not merely formal and restitutionary in its reach.33

In Fuma v Commander LDF & Others, the applicant was a former member of the army who lodged a case in the High Court of Lesotho sitting in its constitutional jurisdiction. The Applicant’s case was that after he became visually impaired, the medical board of the army recommended that he be retired on medical grounds. He challenged this retirement on the ground that he was not given a chance to make presentations before the board prior to its decision and also that it was not his visual impairment that informed the decision of the medical board but the fact that he was HIV positive. He illustrated that there are members of the army whom after being visually impaired were not retired but were given other duties that suited their condition. He asserted that the difference with him was that he had become visually impaired as a result of the HIV and that it is on the basis of his HIV status that the board retired him.

The Court held that the retirement was discriminatory and violated both the constitution of Lesotho and Lesotho’s international human rights obligations. In holding that Lesotho has an international human rights obligation not to discriminate, the Court sought guidance from the South African case of AZAPO & Others v President of South Africa,34 where it was considered that municipal law should be interpreted to avoid a conflict with a state’s international treaty obligations.35 On this basis, the court concluded that Lesotho is bound by provisions of the CRPD, though it has not yet been domesticated.

In the Masupha case, a daughter of a late principal chief challenged constitutionality of section 10 of the Chieftainship Act 1968 which limits the right to succession to office of chief to first born male children. Amongst other grounds, she relied on non-discrimination provisions of ICCPR, CEDAW, African Charter and African Women’s Protocol. The Court held that:

These instruments, it is clear, are aids to interpretation not the source of rights enforceable by Lesotho citizens. In the present matter, there’s no aspect of the process if interpreting section 10 of the [Chieftainship] Act which leaves its meaning exposed to any uncertainty, to the resolution of which the instruments in question could contribute further than the considerations which have already been taken into account.

After ratification of the CRPD in 2008, Lesotho adopted policies and laws aimed at incorporating the human rights principles enunciated in the international instruments referred to above. These include amongst others: National Disability and Rehabilitation Policy of 2011,36 Education Act of 201037 and Children’s Protection and Welfare Act 2011.38

2.5 With reference to 2.4 above, has the CRPD or any other ratified international instrument been domesticated? Provide details.

The CRPD has not yet been domesticated. A Disability Equality Bill39 has been tabled before parliament and is yet to be debated for it to be passed into law. LNFOD is holding consultative meetings, workshops and research in order to lobby the government to pass this Bill into an Act.40

3 Constitution

3.1 Does the Constitution of Lesotho contain provisions that directly address disability? If so, list the provisions, and explain how each provision addresses disability.

The 1993 Constitution of Lesotho has only one provision that addresses disability directly. This is section 33 which provides for rehabilitation, training and social resettlement of persons with disabilities. It provides in particular that Lesotho shall adopt policies designed to ‘provide for training facilities, including specialized institutions, public or private and place disabled persons in employment and encourage employers to admit disabled persons to employment’.

3.2 Does the Constitution of Lesotho contain provisions that indirectly address disability? If so, list the provisions and explain how each provision indirectly addresses disability.

Sections 4 and 18 of the Constitution provide for freedom from discrimination in enjoyment of the rights provided for in the Constitution. Both sections list prohibited grounds of discrimination. Disability is not listed as a prohibited ground of discrimination. However, since the list is open ended in that it prohibits discrimination on the basis of ‘other status’, this indirectly addresses disability in that no one may be discriminated on the basis of ‘other status’ including his or her disability. 

4 Legislation

4.1 Does Lesotho have legislation that directly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the legislation and explain how the legislation addresses disability.
  • Buildings Control Act 1995

Section 19 provides for physical access for PWD’s, in all public buildings. In terms of this section, the Minister may publish a notice in the Government Gazette which directs any person making a plan or specification of any proposed building to provide physical access for persons with physical disabilities.

The challenge with this Act is that the Minister may publish that notice only if he shall so wish; this is not a mandatory process. The provisions of this act are not complied with in regard to some key public buildings. One clear example of this non-compliance is the Maseru based Government Buildings Complex.

  • Sexual Offences Act 2003

Section 3 provides that anyone who engages in sexual intercourse with a PWD who does not have the capacity to consent to such an act commits an offence.41 It further provides that, anyone who engages in sexual intercourse in the presence of a person with a disability commits an offence.42 In as much as the rationale behind this section is described as protection of PWDs from sexual assault and exploitation, the section has been viewed as prohibiting PWDs from consensual sexual relations thereby reinforcing the stereotype that PWDs are asexual.

  • Youth Council Act 2008

The Act establishes the Youth Council as the appointed youth structure which will administer youth development in Lesotho. Section 5 provides that youth with disabilities shall be nominated by the disability federation into the council for the representation of the youth with disabilities. Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD) nominated a representative of all youth with disabilities into the council in 2010.

  • National Assembly Electoral Amendment Act 2011

Section 30 provides that all political parties registered under the electoral commission must facilitate the participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political participation. Political parties must ensure that, persons with disabilities have access to the political venues and the communication rights of PWD’s are respected in the political domain.

  • Children’s Protection and Welfare Act 2011

The Act promotes the protection and promotion of rights of children living in Lesotho, including the rights of children with disabilities. The non-discrimination clause of the Act (Principle II clause 6) states that, children with disabilities shall not be discriminated against on the basis of their disabilities. Section 13 provides that a child with disability has a right to dignity, special care, medical treatment, rehabilitation, family and personal integrity, sports and recreation. The Act states that the education and training should be specifically aimed to help the child with a disability to enjoy a full and decent life and achieve the highest degree of self-reliance and social integration.43

4.2 Does Lesotho have legislation that indirectly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the main legislation and explain how the legislation relates to disability.
  • Penal Code Act 2010

The Penal Code Act provides that any person who does an act that brings about premature termination of pregnancy in a female person commits an offence of abortion.44 The Act however provides that it shall be a defence where the act has been committed by a medical practitioner:

In order to prevent the birth of a child who will be seriously physically or mentally handicapped, and the person performing the act has obtained in advance from another registered medical practitioner a certificate to the effect that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to avoid the birth of a seriously physically or mentally handicapped child ...45

This provision has met a lot of criticism from organisations of persons with disabilities who before the Act was passed, brought to the attention of the Ministry of Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights that the provision contravenes the CRPD.46 The Act was however passed and the provisions complained about remains the law in Lesotho.

5 Decisions of courts and tribunals

5.1 Have the courts (or tribunals) in Lesotho ever decided on an issue(s) relating to disability? If so, list the cases and provide a summary for each of the cases with the facts, the decision(s) and the reasoning.

The Courts had an occasion to address the issues of disability, in particular the status of CRPD in the laws of Lesotho, albeit briefly, in only one case of Fuma v LDF & Others,47 the facts of which are stipulated in 2.4 above. Having declared that the applicant had been discriminated against on the basis of disability as well as his HIV status, the court held that:

[The court] primarily takes a view that the unreservedly ratified United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stands not only as an aspirational instrument in the matter but that by default, it technically assumes the effect of municipal law in the country.48

6 Policies and programmes

6.1 Does Lesotho have policies or programmes that directly address disability? If so, list each policy and explain how the policy addresses disability.
  • National Disability and Rehabilitation Policy (NDRP) 201149

The NDRP is aimed at guiding the government in designing the disability specific programmes and interventions. The purpose of this policy is to create an environment in which PWDs can realise their full potential. The objective of the policy is to ensure meaningful inclusion of PWDs in mainstream society. It is intended to guide all the government ministries in designing inclusive and disability-specific programmes. It promotes inclusion of people with disabilities in education, health, accessibility, employment, and social services to mention but a few. It calls upon every ministry of the government to implement the policy while the disability focal ministry coordinates the implementation of the policy.

  • National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2012/13-2016/1750

Disability has been adopted as a cross cutting issue in the NSDP. It requires the government to adopt strategies that promote the welfare of people with disabilities in a variety of ways including: ensuring that people with disabilities access quality health services; preventing disability through provision of quality health services; increasing the number of teachers who are equipped in the education of children with disabilities; ensuring PWDs’ access to formal and non-formal education; improving employment opportunities for PWDs; ensuring accessibility of public buildings, roads and other social services; and lastly reviewing the disability grant policy for purposes of enhancing the lives of the beneficiaries.51

6.2 Does Lesotho have policies and programmes that indirectly address disability? If so, list each policy and describe how the policy indirectly addresses disability.
  • Gender and Development Policy (GDP) 200352

The aim of the GDP is to ensure that Lesotho builds a nation that perceives women, men, girls and boys as equal partners based upon the principle of equal participation in development. It is therefore indirectly addresses equality of women and girls with disabilities.

  • National Vision 202053

This is national poverty reduction strategy which was adopted after a national dialogue. PWDs were amongst the stakeholders consulted before the strategy was adopted.54 It provides that one of the aims is to make sure that by the year 2020, ‘there will be no gender disparities. Men, women and people with disabilities will be equal before the law and will be afforded equal opportunities in all aspects of life’.55 In relation to health, the strategy provides that by the year 2020 Basotho (a term used to refer to people of Lesotho) shall be a healthy nation; the country will have a good quality health system with facilities and infrastructure accessible and affordable to all Basotho, irrespective of their disabilities.56 Promotion of special education programmes for PWDs with the involvement of DPOs is listed as one of strategic actions in this strategic document.57

  • National Reproductive Health Policy 200858

It considers special needs of different target populations and the need to abide by conventions guarding against discrimination on the basis of disability.59

  • National Strategic Plan on Vulnerable Children April 2012-March 201760

It states that one of its aims is to implement the NDRP 2011.61 It notes as one of the key achievements, government’s establishment of bursary schemes for vulnerable children including children with disabilities attending secondary schools.62 The strategies devised in order to protect the rights of vulnerable children include advocacy work by government working together civil society organisations, care, support and rehabilitation of children with disabilities. Adolescent sexual and reproductive health of all children is also included in the services that will be provided for all children.63

  • National Social Protection Strategy 2014/15-2018/1964

This strategy is aimed at ensuring the well-being of all citizens, in particular of the most vulnerable. It proposes undertaking research to get a better understanding of the actual situation of disability and chronic illnesses in Lesotho and to map the existing initiatives to improve it and to work with LNFOD to publicise the National Disability Mainstreaming Plan. It also provides for a disability grant of two hundred and fifty Maloti (M250.00)65 per person per month, phased in over four years, to all those with severe disabilities with the transfer value indexed to inflation.

7 Disability bodies

7.1 Other than the ordinary courts and tribunals, does Lesotho have any official body that specifically addresses violations of the rights of people with disabilities? If so, describe the body, its functions and its powers.

Lesotho does not have an official body that specifically addresses violation of the rights of persons with disabilities. However, one of the proposals made in the Disability Equality Bill is the establishment of a Disability Council, which will amongst others address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities.66

7.2 Other than the ordinary courts or tribunals, does Lesotho have any official body that though not established to specifically address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, can nonetheless do so? If so, describe the body, its functions and its powers.

Lesotho has the Office of the Ombudsman whose overall mandate is to investigate or inquire either on complaint or upon own initiative where there are allegations of infringement of fundamental rights and freedoms.67 That is, this office can address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities

8 National human rights institutions, Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman or Public Protector

8.1 Does Lesotho have a Human Rights Commission, an Ombudsman or Public Protector? If so, does its remit include the promotion and protection of the rights of people with disabilities? If your answer is yes, also indicate whether the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman or Public Protector of Lesotho has ever addressed issues relating to the rights of persons with disabilities.

Lesotho does not have a NHRI yet. The Constitution has been amended to provide for the establishment of a Human Rights Commission.68 However the enabling legislation is still in a Bill form, Human Rights Commission Bill 2012 and has not been passed into law yet.

As indicated above, there is an Office of the Ombudsman whose overall mandate includes investigation of allegations of human rights violations.

9 Disabled peoples organisations (DPOs) and other civil society organisations

9.1 Does Lesotho have organisations that represent and advocate for the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities? If so, list each organisation and describe its activities.

Lesotho National Federation of the Disabled (LNFOD) is the umbrella body of disabled peoples’ organizations (DPOs). The mission of LNFOD is to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Lesotho by providing support to DPOs and empowering their members with life skills, financial and material resources and representing their needs to government, development partners and the wider society.

The Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) in Lesotho are:

  • Lesotho National Association of Physically Disabled (LNAPD)

LNAPD is an association of people with physical disabilities which seeks to address their needs and aspirations through leadership and competence training strategies and self-advocacy. It promotes and supports all activities that are pertinent to human rights and social development. LNAPD is also the founder and operator of the Itjareng Vocational Training Centre for the disabled. LNAPD’S mandate as a DPO is to advocate for the socio-economic rights of the people with physical disabilities. It ensures that people with physical disabilities access public services on an equal basis with their able bodied counterparts through lobbying and advocacy to the service providers. LNAPD implements a Human Rights Programme and a Community Based Rehabilitation Programme for the physically disabled in two districts of Leribe and Mafeteng out of the ten districts of Lesotho.

  • Intellectual Disability Association of Lesotho (IDAL)

IDAL was formerly named Lesotho Society of Mentally Handicapped Persons. It was founded in 1992 by parents of children with intellectual disabilities. It aims to represent and protect the rights of children with disabilities (including severe or multiple disabilities) and individuals of all ages with intellectual disability through the empowerment of parents and such youth.69 IDAL operates in 21 branches in 8 districts of the country with a membership of 2 000 individuals. IDAL uses a community based approach to provide parents, care-givers and individuals with the support, training and knowledge needed to live and engage in their own communities. IDAL advocacy work is on the four key areas of education, health, protection and employment. IDAL also runs a programme in which youth with intellectual disabilities are trained on rights contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as well as Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).70

  • Lesotho National League of the Visually Impaired Persons (LNLVIP)

This is an organisation of the visually impaired persons of Lesotho which was established in 1986. Some of those reasons that led to establishment of LNLVIP are: to advocate for the rights of the visually impaired persons in Lesotho; to ensure that visually impaired persons get access to education like any other able bodied persons; to create a vocational centre where the visually impaired trainees are taught life skills; and to facilitate placement and employment of the visually impaired persons in Lesotho.71

  • National Association of the Deaf in Lesotho (NADL)

NADL’s mandate is to assist the deaf community in Lesotho to access their human rights. NADL aims to fulfil this mandate by primarily focusing on the promotion of sign language in the public and private sector so that the deaf community can receive quality services on an equal basis with others. NADL is also charged with training Sign Language Interpreters. It promotes knowledge of Lesotho Sign Language amongst its members and to the service providers. This has been done by producing learning materials such as the Lesotho Sign Language Dictionary, and the Lesotho Sign Language DVD for beginners. These materials help new learners and persons who have contact through services with the deaf community to familiarise themselves with the basics of the language. NADL’s Core Activities include: promotion and advocacy for the human rights of deaf people in Lesotho in all walks of life; raising awareness on the importance of sign language and inviting all people to learn it; advocating for the mainstreaming of deaf issues into the national agenda as well as in all the sectors of the society; empowering young deaf people on issues of education, human rights, HIV/AIDS, life skills and ensuring provision of inclusive social services for deaf people in community councils within jurisdiction where deaf people live.72

9.2 In the countries in Lesotho’s region (Southern Africa) are DPOs organised/coordinated at national and/or regional level?

In several countries in Southern Africa, DPOs are organised at both sub-regional and regional levels.

  • At the sub-regional level, there is Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) which is a leading southern African disability-focused network engaged in coordination of activities of DPOs in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. SAFOD was formed in 1986. To date there are 10 countries which are affiliated to SAFOD through National Federations of Disabled People Organisations (NFDPOs).73 Lesotho affiliates to SAFOD through LNFOD.
  • At the regional level there is Africa Disability Forum (ADF) whose aim is to unify and amplify the voice of Africans with disabilities, their families, and their organisations in advocating for their rights and inclusion in all aspects of development and society at Pan African, sub-regional and national levels.74
9.3 If Lesotho has ratified the CRPD, how has it ensured the involvement of DPOs in the implementation process?

Lesotho has ensured involvement of DPOs in the process of implementation of CRPD.

9.4 What types of actions have DPOs themselves taken to ensure that they are fully embedded in the process of implementation?

LNFOD, as the umbrella body of DPOs in Lesotho, works very closely with the Ministry of Social Development, the Parliamentary Council as well as various parliamentary committees to ensure that the Disability Equality Bill is passed into law. In all the lobbying and advocacy efforts, LNFOD involves representatives of all DPOs and always reports back to the entire membership on progress of the implementation process. For instance, when LNFOD designed its Advocacy Action Plan, DPO’s were involved from the beginning stage to ensure that issues for people with disabilities were well reflected in the program design and objectives.75

9.5 What, if any, are the barriers DPOs have faced in engaging with implementation?
  • Lack of statistical data regarding disability;
  • Poor monitoring of programmes implemented by DPOs in the communities; and
  • Resource constraints, in particular lack of financial and human resources as well as technical knowledge on strategies which DPOs can engage in order to be part of and follow-up implementation efforts.
9.6 Are there specific instances that provide ‘best-practice models’ for ensuring proper involvement of DPOs?

Although not yet passed into law, the establishment of a Disability Advisory Council in terms of Disability Equity Bill, 2014, will provide a platform for DPOs to be meaningfully involved in the formulation and implementation of laws, policies and programmes that relate to or affect persons with disabilities.

9.7 Are there any specific outcomes regarding successful implementation and/or improved recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities that resulted from the engagement of DPOs in the implementation process?

Through LNFOD’s advocacy programmes, the government in collaboration with LNFOD and its development partners drafted a Disability Equality Bill and National Disability Mainstreaming Plan which are awaiting approval.76

9.8 Has your research shown areas for capacity building and support (particularly in relation to research) for DPOs with respect to their engagement with the implementation process?

Capacity building in relation to research is needed. Areas that need further research include a review of the laws of Lesotho in order to ascertain their compliance with the CRPD, particularly in the areas of access to justice as well as criminal law: how rules of criminal law, criminal procedure and evidence affect PWDs as victims, witnesses or perpetrators of crime. Capacity building is also needed for skilled human resource, coordination, advocacy and project management skills. As far as human resources is concerned, the main problem is that currently LNFOD has very limited human resources. However, with the limited human resources that it has, LNFOD has made considerable strides in ensuring adoption of policies and programmes within the Ministry of Social Development and to have the current Disability Equality Bill. More personnel with skills in advocacy, lobbying and follow-up strategies would help to ensure that the policies are effectively implemented and that the Bill is finally passed into law.

In relation to data collection, there are many statistical data gaps on disability in Lesotho. It is therefore highly recommended that, DPOs be assisted with data collection and analysis so that they can assess the suitability of government services, policies and programmes to PWDs in the areas of welfare, employment, health services and education. This would also empower DPOs to lobby for specific laws, policies and programmes that are geared towards implementation of CRPD.

With respect to collaboration, DPOs should work closely with government ministries and departments as well as other CSOs whose mandate is not exclusively on disability but on human rights in general or specific to women’s rights, children’s rights or access to socio-economic rights such as water, as there are PWDs within these groups and concerted efforts may help in implementation of specific provisions of CPRD which affects the groups concerned.

9.9 Are there recommendations that come out of your research as to how DPOs might be more comprehensively empowered to take a leading role in the implementation processes of international or regional instruments?
  • Coordination: In this respect, it is suggested that, DPO’s be equipped with coordination, advocacy and project management skills which include practical varied examples of how DPOs in other jurisdictions engage with governments ministries and departments in the implementation process including disability mainstreaming.
  • Data collection: There are lots of statistical data gaps as far as disability in Lesotho is concerned. It is therefore highly recommended that DPOs be in a position to collect and analyse their own data so that they can assess the suitability of government services, policies and programmes to PWDs in the areas of welfare, employment, health services and education. This would also empower DPOs to lobby for specific laws, policies and programmes that are geared towards implementation.
  • Collaboration: DPOs should work closely with other CSOs whose mandate is not exclusively on disability but on human rights in general or specific on women’s rights, children’s rights or access to socio-economic rights such as water, as there are PWDs within these groups and concerted efforts may help in implementation of specific provisions of CPRD which affects the groups concerned.
9.10 Are there specific research institutes in the region where Lesotho is situated (Southern Africa) that work on the rights of persons with disabilities and that have facilitated the involvement of DPOs in the process, including in research?

There are none. However Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) works with LNFOD and involves DPOs in research initiatives such as a study to review the existing laws and policies in Lesotho to determine their harmony with the CRPD.

10 Government departments

10.1 Does Lesotho have a government department or departments that is/are specifically responsible for promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities? If so, describe the activities of the department(s).

The Department of Disability Services in the Ministry of Social Development.

11 Main human rights concerns of people with disabilities in Lesotho

11.1 Describe the contemporary challenges of persons with disabilities, and the legal responses thereto, and assess the adequacy of these responses to:
  • Lack of Social support and respite care facilities for children with severe disabilities

For many parents who have children with severe disabilities, raising them becomes a full time task since there are no respite care facilities for children with severe disabilities in Lesotho. Consequently parents, especially mothers, have to leave employment and care for their children on a full time basis. Since there is no government financial support in this regard, parents are left destitute and dependant on relatives, friends and neighbours for basic commodities such as food, clothing and medical care.77

  • Unemployment

The rate of unemployment in Lesotho is very high. According to the Living Conditions Study, the rate is twice as high, at about 70 per cent for PWDs.78 Currently there are no legal responses to this challenge. However, LNFO and its partners are lobbying government and advocating for affirmative action employment policies as well as financial assistance to PWDs to start businesses so as to create self-employment.

  • Denial of access to justice

CRPD addresses a full spectrum of issues related to disability and offers guidance to governments on how to protect the rights of PWDs. Non-domestication of CRPD has therefore resulted in being a barrier to PWDs access to justice. This injustice is made even worse by section 2 of the Constitution on the basis of which courts have rejected reliance on non-domesticated international human rights instruments.

11.2 Do people with disabilities have a right to participation in political life (political representation and leadership) in Lesotho?

The National Assembly Electoral Amendment Act of 2011 ensures participation of PWDs in the political life in Lesotho. Section 30 provides that all political parties registered under the electoral commission must facilitate the participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political participation. Political parties must ensure that, persons with disabilities have access to the political venues and that the communication rights of PWD’s are respected in the political domain. However, in the latest February 2015 elections only one political party, All Basotho Convention (ABC), had a sign language interpreter in its rallies. Furthermore, one of the members of the Senate, which is the Upper House of Parliament has a physical disability and that has not hindered his right to participate in the political life of the country.

11.3 Are people with disabilities’ socio-economic rights, including the right to health, education and other social services protected and realised in your country?

There is no disability specific law in Lesotho. Although there are laws and policies which, to a limited extent cater for persons with disabilities, they are not efficiently implemented. Furthermore, almost all socio-economic rights are categorised as directive principles of state policy in the Constitution, and in terms of section 25 of the Constitution, such are not justiciable in the courts of law. This leads to gross violations of socio-economic rights of PWDs with impunity.

Furthermore, in comparison with other non-disabled members of the society, PWDs do not have equal access to health, education and other social services. This results from infrastructure that is not disability friendly. For instance, public roads and buildings do not accommodate wheelchair users, have obstacles that inhibit visually impaired persons to move independently and service providers do not understand sign language thus creating barriers for people with hearing impairments.

11.4 Case studies of specific vulnerable groups
  • Women with disabilities

Women in Lesotho generally face discrimination on the basis of sex. Such discrimination is often justified on the grounds of custom and culture as stipulation in section 18(4)(e) of the Constitution of Lesotho. Since PWDs also suffer discrimination because of the attitudinal and institutional barriers that prevent them from accessing human rights, women with disabilities suffer double the scourge because of their status as women and because of their disabilities. The discrimination leads to denial of sexual and reproductive rights, unemployment, lack of access to education and limited participation in politics.

  • Children with disabilities.

A feasibility study undertaken by the Ministry of Education in 1993 reflected that there are many children with special needs in regular primary schools in Lesotho. The children with special needs include children with different disabilities such as visual, hearing and physical impairments, epilepsy and psychosocial disabilities. The challenges identified include enrolling children in specialised schools instead on integrating their needs into the mainstream schools which in turn disrupt such children’s family life.79 Although the study was conducted two decades ago, this challenge still exists. The other challenge identified in a LNFOD Newsletter is restrictive environments in mainstream schools such as inaccessible ablution rooms which results in children, mainly girls, with physical disabilities dropping out of school.80

12 Future perspective

12.1 Are there any specific measures with regard to persons with disabilities being debated or considered in Lesotho at the moment?
  • Drafting of the National Disability Mainstreaming Plan: Currently with the financial assistance of one of LNFOD partners, Communities of Practice in Disability Advocacy for Mainstreaming (COPDAM), the Ministry of Social Development has engaged a consultant to assist the ministry to draft a National Disability Mainstreaming Policy/Plan.
  • Enactment of Disability Equality Law. As stated earlier, a Disability Equality Bill has been draft and its pending debate in parliament in order for it to be passed into law.
12.2 What legal reforms would you like to see in Lesotho? Why?
  • Enactment of a disability-specific law: there are a number of laws that make reference to disability but they are not specific and are seldom adhered to. A disability specific law would thus provide a synergy of all laws that apply to disability and also repeal all laws that are not CRPD compliant. This law would also ensure PWDs access to justice in that it would be a commitment by government on the basis of which the government would be held accountable.
  • Inclusion of disability as a prohibited ground of discrimination in all the laws, particularly in the Constitution.
  • Repeal of discriminatory sections in the laws and review and revision of other laws so that the language used clearly includes persons with disabilities in accordance with CRPD.


1. Lesotho Bureau of Statistics (BOS) www.bos.gov.ls (accessed 24 November 2014).

2. Available on http://countryeconomy.com/demography/population/lesotho (accessed 16 February 2015). See also World Population Review 2014 ‘Lesotho population 2014’ www.world populationreview.com/countries/lesotho-population (accessed 16 February 2015).

3. BOS (n 1 above).

4. Y Kamaleri & AH Eide ‘Living conditions among people with disabilities in Lesotho: A national representative study’ (Living Conditions Study) SINTEF Technology and Society Global Health and Welfare (2011) 27.

5. Living Conditions Study (n 4 above). See also International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH) (1999) www.who.ch/icidh (accessed 26 May 2015).

6. Living Conditions Study (n 4 above) 27.

7. Government of Lesotho, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare National Disability and Rehabilitation Policy (NDRP) (2011) http://www.gov.ls/social (accessed 22 September 2015).

8. As above.

9. BOS (n 1 above).

10. Lesotho Demographic Survey 2006.

11. C Chitereka ‘People with disabilities and the role of social workers in Lesotho’ (2010) 8 Social Work and Society International Online Journal http://www.socwork.net/sws/article/view/25/69 (accessed 23 March 2015).

12. Living Conditions Study (n 4 above).

13. Interview with Ms Polo Chabane, Head of Human Rights Unit conducted on 23 February 2015.

14. Lesotho Initial Report to Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UN Doc CRC/C/11/Add.20 (27 April 1998) paras 147-164.

15. Government of Lesotho, Ministry of Gender, Youth and Sports ‘2003 Gender and Development Policy’ http://www.gov.ls/gender (accessed 26 May 2015).

16. Government of Lesotho, Ministry of Finance and Development Planning ‘2000 National Vision 2020’ http://www.gov.ls (accessed 26 May 2015).

17. Combined initial to fourth periodic reports of states parties: Lesotho, UN Doc CEDAW/C/LSO/14 paras 30, 71, 78.

18. Government of Lesotho, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare ‘2008 National Reproductive Health Policy’.

19. Lesotho report to CEDAW (n 14 above) para 192.

20. Lesotho report to CEDAW (n 14 above) para 90.

21. Report of the Working Group on the UPR: Lesotho UN Doc A/HRC/15/7/add.1 (15 September 2010) para 5.

22. NDRP (n 7 above).

23. Children’s Protection and Welfare Act (CPWA) No 7 of 2011.

24. UPR Report (n 21 above) para 18.

25. UPR Report (n 21 above) para 19.

26. NDRP (n 7 above).

27. Lesotho’s First Periodic Report to the ACHPR para 1.11 http://www.achpr.org/files/sessions/31st/state-reports/1st-1991-2000/achpr31_staterep_lesotho_2002_eng.pdf (accessed 30 September 2015).

28. Joe Molefi v Legal Advisor & Others [1970] 3 ALL ER 724.

29. Basotho National Party & Another v Government of Lesotho & Others Constitutional Case No 5/2000 [2003] LSHC 6 (BNP).

30. Tsepe v Independent Electoral Commission & Other [2005] LSHC 96.

31. Fuma v Commander LDF & Others (Const/8/2011) [2013] LSHC 68

32. Senate Gabasheane Masupha v Senior Resident Magistrate for the district of Berea & Others C of A (CIV) 29/2013 [2014] LSCA (Masupha).

33. Tsepe (n 30 above).

34. AZAPO & Others v President of South Africa 1996 (4) SA 672 (CC).

35. Fuma (n 31 above) para 22.

36. NDRP (n 7 above).

37. Education Act 3 of 2010.

38. CPWA (n 23 above).

39. Government of Lesotho 2014 Disability Equality Bill 2014 (Zero draft).

40. N Sefuthi ‘Director’s corner’ (March 2015) Issue 4 vol 2 Disability Lesotho.

41. Sexual Offences Act 3 of 2003, sec 3(1) read with sec 2(f).

42. Sexual Offences Act (n 41 above) sec 3.

43. CPWA (n 23 above) sec13.

44. Penal Code Act 2010, sec 45(1).

45. Penal Code Act 2010, sec 45(2)(b).

46. N Sefuthi ‘Director’s Corner Game changer for people with disabilities: Adoption of the CRPD’ (November 2014) Issue 30 Disability Lesotho http://www.lnfpd.org.ls/uploads/1/2/2/5/12251792/disability_lesotho_November_2014pdf (accessed 26 May 2015).

47. Fuma (n 31 above).

48. Fuma (n 31 above) para 22.

49. NDRP (n 7 above).

50. Government of Lesotho ‘2012 National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP): Growth and development strategic framework 2012/13-2016/17’ www.gov.ls (accessed 24 December 2014).

51. NSDP 2012/2013-2016/17, sec 6.3.

52. GDP (n 15 above).

53. National Vision 202 (n 16 above).

54. National Vision 2020(n 16 above) para 1.2.2.

55. National Vision 2020 (n 16 above) para 2.3.1.

56. National Vision 2020 (n 16 above) para 2.3.4.

57. National Vision 2020 (n 16 above) 38.

58. National Reproductive Health Policy (n 18 above).

59. National Reproductive Health Policy (n 18 above).

60. Government of Lesotho Ministry of Social Development ‘2012 National Strategic Plan (NSP) on Vulnerable Children’ (April 2012 to March 2017)

61. NSP on Vulnerable Children (n 60 above) 16.

62. NSP on Vulnerable Children (n 60 above) 26.

63. NSP on Vulnerable Children (n 60 above) 28.

64. Government of Lesotho, Ministry of Social Development ‘National Social Protection Strategy 2014/15 to 2018/19’ (2014).

65. An equivalent of 21US Dollars.

66. Disability Equality Bill (n 39 above) Preamble.

67. Constitution of Lesotho 1993, sec 132. See also Ombudsman Act 1996.

68. Sixth amendment to the 1993 Constitution of Lesotho.

69. Information available at http://www.idal.org.ls (accessed 26 May 2015).

70. As above.

71. Information about the organization available at http://www.lnlvip.org.ls (accessed 26 March 2015).

72. Information about the association available at http://www.nadl.org.ls (accessed 26 May 2015).

73. Information about SAFOD and its activities available at http://safod.net (accessed 26 May 2015).

74. As above.

75. Interview with Ms Maja Matsoha-Makhoali, LNFOD’s human rights and advocacy officer.

76. As above.

77. Information available at www.lnfod.org.ls (accessed 23 March 2015).

78. Living Conditions Study (n 4 above).

79. Ministry of Education Feasibility Study 1993.

80. P Letsau ‘Commemorating women’s day’ (March 2015) Issue 4 vol 2 Disability Lesotho www.lnfod.org.ls (accessed 27 May 2015).

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