January 22, 2024 In Legal Support

Disabled Children’s Problems and Laws

Disability is an increasing issue in Bangladesh, but not because of those who have it; rather, it is because of people who do not recognize their rights. Due to a disability, one’s normal mental or physical functioning is impaired. In this contemporary society, they face enormous challenges in their day-to-day lives. Despite the fact that the Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees them equal rights, they are frequently walked over without being acknowledged in this brutal society. In Bangladesh, disabled people’s rights are constantly infringed upon, primarily by their own families, the community, and their workplace. People with disabilities have impediments in every aspect of their lives, such as getting access to proper medical care, good nutrition, participation, and education.

They face a variety of obstacles that limit their freedom and movement when using transportation, mobile and internet services, and other services related to healthcare and technology. It is incredibly difficult for persons with disabilities to use such amenities because neither our nation’s transportation systems are accessible to the disabled nor do buses and trains have features for simple wheelchair access. Further, there are barely any public restrooms that are designed with disabled people’s special needs in mind. In reality, no reasonable changes have been made to improve the accessibility of people with disabilities. There are not many institutions that offer programs particularly designed for disabled students to facilitate their education. There are very few teachers who have the necessary training and experience to teach and interact with such students. Disabilities come in various forms, each with its own set of needs that necessitate institutions providing a diverse range of curricula designed with their needs in mind, including teachers with various levels of specialization.

People in this oppressive society continuously look down upon the disabled people. Sometimes, the parents who gave birth to the disabled child do not officially recognize them, and as a result, the child is denied access to social services and legal protections from the very beginning of their life. Due to their vulnerabilities, they are not only neglected but also abused and exploited the most. In this society, their special needs are rarely acknowledged, and there are practically no institutions that take their needs into consideration. Although specific laws have been passed for them in theory, in practice, they are not being carried out as envisioned. As per the Situation Analysis on Children with Disabilities (2014), they are unquestionably among those who are most excluded in Bangladesh when it comes to schooling: among the 97% of students who attend primary school, just 11% of them are children with disabilities who obtain any kind of education. Not only that, sometimes they are not even treated equally in their own households. Children who are born healthy and without disabilities typically receive better care than those who are. Discrimination and prejudice often begin in one’s own family; people who ought to speak up for them and defend them when their rights are violated are often the ones who do so, hoping to gain from their helplessness. Despite being the genuine successor in title to many family-owned properties, many people with disabilities do not receive any inheritance from their families. Additionally, individuals who do inherit are deprived of their rights by other family members, usually when their guardians are no longer alive to protect them. Another important aspect is gender; girls with disabilities are discriminated against more than boys in this patriarchal society.

However, Bangladesh is trying to accommodate the needs of disabled people and protect their rights, and as of 2007, it is the first country to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), along with the Optional Protocol in 2008, which promotes equal rights for people with disabilities and protects them when they are discriminated against. Recently, Bangladesh has also adopted many laws trying to incorporate international provisions, which include the Children Policy of 2011; the Children Act of 2013; and the Rights and Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2013.

According to Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 1972, “All citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law,” thereby no one should be discriminated against in any form due to their disabilities. It ensures the basic human rights of every citizen, which includes the disabled. Further, as per Article 15(d), the right to social security for disabled people is also secured by the Constitution. The Succession Act of 1925 permits disabled people to create wills as long as they can understand what is intended by doing so. Not only this, but in 1995, to incorporate disability into the nation’s objectives, the first national policy for the disabled was approved, which includes recommendations for accessibility, education, research, rehabilitation, prevention, and identification. In addition to this, the Disability Welfare Act was enacted in 2001 and a National Action Plan in 2006; however, after many amendments, the 2001 Act was repealed, and the Rights and Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2013, came into force. The Act takes a human rights-based approach to disability and guarantees inclusive education, seat reservations on all public transportation, accessible guidelines for all public spaces, fair employment opportunities, and the safeguarding of inherited property rights. The law mandates that people with disabilities sign up for identity cards so that they can keep a record of their enrolment in educational institutions and employment opportunities. The policy of 2006 was also modified after this legislation, and a new action plan and institutional arrangements were set up. Also, another piece of legislation that was passed in the same year is the Neuro-Development Disability Protection Trust Act. This Act was enacted specifically for people with neuro-developmental disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, and others, providing them with care, security, and rehabilitation as needed.

Not to mention, the National Building Code of 2008 outlines the accessibility criteria for people with disabilities. Moreover, the improvement of accessibility and opportunity for people with disabilities is expressly mentioned in both the National Women Development Policy of 2011 and the Information and Technology Policy of 2010. One of the most requisite laws was the National Child Policy of 2011, which ensures equal rights for all children, including disabled children as well. It guarantees that children with disabilities are treated with dignity and are included in all facets of society, including schooling. Additionally, it stipulates that special education should be offered to disabled children who cannot attend regular schools. Besides, Bangladesh also has a complex social safety net that includes cash allowances for injured freedom fighters and people with disabilities who are “financially insolvent,” stipends for disabled students, grants for special education facilities, and subsidies for service and assistance centers for people with disabilities.

Barrister Sabrina Zarin

Senior Partner, Equity LLP

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