People with Disabilities call on the Government of Timor-Leste to uphold disability rights NOW

**Nota: Imi mós bele lee istória ida-ne'e iha lian Inglés ba Blog RHTO nian.

Earlier this year, disabled people's organisations and other organisations working in the disability sector in Timor-Leste submitted a report to the United Nations in Geneva, exposing that the rights of people with disabilities in our country are still not being upheld.

Our report (available here), which was jointly prepared by Member Organisations of the Asosiasaun Defisiensia Timor-Leste, is part of the Universal Review Process happening this year.

The photo shows four RHTO staff members standing outside the RHTO office. One staff member is a wheelchair user, one uses crutches, and two others have physical impairments but do not use assistive devices.

Photo: RHTO staff stand outside the RHTO office in Dili, Timor-Leste

What our report shows:

  • Stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities remains common. Children and adults with disability may be “shunned, ignored, driven from their communities, imprisoned in rooms or chained to objects to keep them out of sight”.

  • There is evidence of shackling and long-term restraining of children with disability, particularly children with psychosocial impairments.

  • People with hearing impairments and who are Deaf in Timor-Leste have limited freedom of expression, as there is no official sign language in Timor-Leste recognized by the Government.

  • People with disability and their families are more likely to be poor, but 86 per cent of people with disability do not receive the disability pension provided by MSS.

  • 86 per cent of women with disabilities who participated in recent interviews said they had never accessed vocational training, and 65 per cent do not work or engage in livelihood activities.

  • 72 per cent of people with disability in Timor-Leste had never attended school.

What actions can the Government take to create change?

Disability organisations think the Government should ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) now, to show the UN that they take disability rights seriously.

The Government of Timor-Leste underwent its first Universal Periodic Review back in 2011. During this review, the members of the United Nations Human Rights Council recognised that people with disabilities in Timor-Leste are facing significant violations of their human rights, and concrete action was needed to change this situation.

The Council made a total of 125 recommendations for future improvements to ensure that the human rights of all citizens of Timor-Leste would be protected and upheld. Of these recommendations, 10 stipulated that the Government of Timor-Leste should ratify the UN CRPD. The Government of Timor-Leste agreed with these recommendations, and promised to implement them. But, as at April 2016, the Government has not yet ratified the CRPD.

Why we think the Government needs to ratify the UN CRPD in 2016:

Ratifying the CRPD has many benefits, for people with disabilities, for the wider community, and for the Government:

  • Ratifying will benefit people with disabilities, because it goes beyond just preventing discrimination on the basis of disability. It is proactive, and its purpose is “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”.

  • Ratifying will show to all citizens that people with disabilities have rights. The CRPD helps change attitudes, and will help empower people with disabilities, by showing that people with disabilities are not just "objects" in need of charity or medical treatment, but are "subjects" with all the same rights as people without disabilties, who are capable of making decisions and being active members of society.

  • Ratifying is good for international relations. It will demonstrate to other countries, and to the UN, that the Government of Timor-Leste takes disability rights seriously. 162 other countries have ratified. All ASEAN member nations have either signed or ratified already.

  • Ratifying will open up new sources of support for Timor-Leste. Timor will be able access technical advice and funding which is only available for countries that have ratified, and which will help implement disability rights action. The Government can't get this support until they ratify.

  • The CRPD doesn't have to be a big burden on the Government. The Government doesn't have to have everything (including laws, coordination mechanisms, reports etc) in place before ratification, or even immediately after ratification. The CRPD includes the principle of "progressive realisation", which means that the Government can work towards implementing disability inclusion in a way, and on a time-line, which is based on available resources.

  • In October 2016, representatives of the Timorese Government will travel to Geneva to present their update on the human rights situation in Timor. If the Government does not ratify before October this year, the UN Human Rights Committee will ask the Government to explain why they failed to implement their commitments.

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