AWARE applauds State’s signing of the CRPD
Signing the Convention underscores Singapore’s collective commitment to do even more to improve the lives of persons with disabilities through early intervention, education, employment, adult care and other measures.
By Emily Lim, Lim Yen Ling and other members of AWARE’s Gender and Disability Project Team
AWARE congratulates the Singapore Government for signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), joining 154 other countries that have already done so. We can now celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December) with pride, having made this significant advance towards recognising the human rights of Singaporeans with disabilities.
As Singapore takes its international obligations seriously, we expect that the Government will undertake due diligence to implement the principles, duties and obligations under the CRPD to promote, protect and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities. This will help build a truly inclusive society where all Singaporeans are able to realise their rights, with physical and non-physical barriers removed for equal access to opportunities. As stated by the Acting Minister for Social and Family Development, signing the Convention underscores Singapore’s collective commitment to do even more to improve the lives of persons with disabilities through early intervention, education, employment, adult care and other measures.
The CRPD, adopted by the UN in 2006, is the first international treaty to address disability rights globally. Its principles include respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy, non-discrimination, full and effective participation and inclusion in society, respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities, equality of opportunity, accessibility, equality between men and women, respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and their right to preserve their identities, and the right of persons with disabilities to enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The CRPD represents the third international human rights treaty that Singapore has signed – the first two being the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), both signed in 1995. These three treaties articulate Singapore’s stand against social inequalities experienced by children, women and persons with disabilities. Implementation of these treaties should thus be closely coordinated.
The Government has laid out an “Enabling Masterplan 2012 – 2016”, which adopts a life-course approach and identifies the needs of persons with disabilities at every phase of life, as well as gaps in the current landscape. Its vision is for an “inclusive Singapore where every person with disability can maximise his potential and is embraced as an integral member of our society.” We are glad that an Enabling Masterplan Implementation Committee has been set up to monitor the implementation of the Masterplan to ensure that it meets CRPD obligations. A recommendation shared by the Disabled People’s Association with AWARE is for the Masterplan to promote and facilitate the political participation of people with disabilities, beyond mere voting to active involvement in political life.
To ensure that Singapore’s laws, policies and practices are aligned with CRPD, reliable statistics are required to ascertain needs and concerns, with such data disaggregated in terms of gender and form of disability. While it is estimated that 4 per cent of the population has disabilities, the exact number is undocumented. This lack of data is troubling since the proportion of people with disabilities is increasing with the ageing of the population. Research shows more than half of those aged 60 and above suffer from a disability, with disability increasing with age and women becoming disabled at double the rate of men.
The CRPD recognizes that women and girls with disabilities are often at greater risk, both within and outside the home, of gender-based violence, abuse, injury, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation. Equality between men and women is a key principle of CRPD, which also devotes an article to women with disabilities. Steps should be taken to ensure that women and girls with disabilities do not experience multiple forms of discrimination.
We note that the State is not signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which would have enabled complaints regarding the violation of rights under CRPD to be lodged with and investigated by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Instead, the Singapore Government asserts that there are sufficient and appropriate local platforms, such as the Ministry of Social and Family Development or the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), for any person or group to raise concerns or complaints. To ensure the effectiveness of such platforms, it may be useful to worth appoint an independent body, authorised to investigate any alleged violation of rights experienced by persons with disabilities.
The signing of the CRPD is a major step forward for Singapore as an inclusive society that takes collective responsibility for all members, especially those who are more vulnerable. The Singapore Government is to be commended for attaining this new milestone of developmental maturity. AWARE looks forward to collaborating with all stakeholders to ensure that the CRPD is implemented to empower all persons with disabilities, especially women and girls with disabilities.
The piece was first published in Today on Dec 3, 2012. Read the published version here.