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Align Disability Laws To International Standards, Govt Told

MUTARE– Stakeholders in the Justice Law and Order Section (JLOS) have urged the government to align disability laws to international standards saying the current provisions perpetuates exclusion of people with disabilities from accessing justice.

By Donald Nyarota

Speaking at a training workshop organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for members of the JLOS, stakeholders said the legal framework should reflect provisions captured in the progressive constitution and amend existing laws to the broader definitions it provides.

Dr Tarisai Mutangi, a consultant with the Ministry of Justice said the definition of disabled person in the Disabilities Act Chapter (17:01) is limited, urging government to repeal the archaic law.

Dr Mutangi said laws should reflect international standards captured in the United Nations Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) which aims to combat exclusion, marginalization, inequalities and stigmatization to protect inherent dignity.

“It appears we have a legal system which has a disability, as environment the legal framework can be changed to be responsive to needs of people with disabilities.

“Government is busy aligning laws to the constitution and laws should reflect the progressive definition in the constitution which is better aligned to the UNCRPD. They should amend the Disabilities Act to ensure that it incorporates all disabilities, even the title itself is outdated.

“The law in Zimbabwe is focusing on the disabled person instead of focusing on the environment that can be designed in such a way that anyone can have equal access to justice, and on the upcoming bill to ensure that it is consistent with international standards.

“While we cannot control disability but we can control the environment which the legal framework also constitute part of and government should embrace the CRPD definition and ensure that it is implemented so that there is equal access to justice.

“There is no need to isolate people with disabilities when it comes to education, if they are put in separate or special institutions that alone promotes exclusion. Anyone who has an impairment should be included and the environment should be made conducive and responsive,” said Dr Mutangi.

JLOS, Chief Law officer, Kingston Magaya said government is committed to advancing human rights, access to justice and opening up the democratic space under the new dispensation.

Magaya said the formation of JLOS was a proactive stance that would promote standards in the justice delivery by enhancing collaboration between government and non-government actors in the justice sector.

“The JLOS was formed to coordinate the activities of justice and access to justice the Ministry of Justice formed the JLOS to standardize the approaches towards justice delivery and access to justice.

“When we talk about justice we are talking of issues drawn from the constitution, the bill of rights, issues drawn from the acts of Parliament and administrative mechanisms on justice delivery.

“The second republic or new dispensation is very much committed towards opening up democratic space and ensuring that there is promotion and protection of human rights and the JLOS is progressive on that one,” said Magaya.

Magaya said JLOS identifies crucial and priority areas in their thematic approach to justice delivery, where disability rights are embraced in the Transitional Stabilization Plan and Vision 2030.

“The JLOS involves all institutions which are in the sector of justice delivery to promote justice including the Ministry of Justice, National Prosecuting Authority, ZRP, prison and correctional services but it’s not only limited to government.

“We also have observer members in the JLOS, that is non-state actors like National Association of Non-Governmental Organization (NANGO). JLOS was formed after a realization that issues of justice delivery and access to justice was being done in a fragmented manner,” said Magaya.

“At each and every time the JLOS identifies crucial and priority areas that they can run together in as much as they will be programing in their institutions, so the issue of disability is very crucial.

“People with disability are very vital and it is important that they incorporated in the programming mechanism of government and its part of the Transitional Stabilization Program and the Vision 2030,” said Magaya.

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