Respect the rights of persons with disabilities in the Federal Constitution


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 08 Jan 2023

WE are delighted that the government, through the able leadership of our Law Minister Azalina Othman, is beginning the process of amending the Federal Constitution to allow Malaysian women the right to confer their citizenship onto their overseas-born children. This a progressive step that will bless many children and families.

We ask at the same time that the government consider the rights of persons with disabilities (PwD).

PwD account for 16% of the population. PwD face considerable discrimination in our society. The impact of the discrimination faced is extended to their care partners, family members, volunteers, allies, and professionals in disability services. Local data show that 6.6% of women serve as mostly unpaid informal care partners of PwD.

Malaysia ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 19 July 2010. Although we have a Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 (PwD Act 2008), however, 12 years after ratification, Malaysia has still not harmonized any domestic legislation with the CRPD.

Most critically, article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution does not expressly prohibit discrimination against disability.

Article 8(2) states:

“Except as expressly authorized by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.”

Our Federal Constitution clearly prohibits discrimination on the ground of religion, race, descent, place of birth and gender, but fails to protect a significant proportion of the public – the PwD or OKU (Orang Kurang Upaya).

We urge the Government to use the ongoing initiative of amending the Federal Constitution to also revise article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution to expressly prohibit discrimination on the ground of disability.

That would expedite the process of amending the PwD Act 2008 to give it the necessary means of upholding and protecting the rights of PwD and care partners. That will launch Malaysia’s long-overdue comprehensive harmonization of domestic legislation with the CRPD in diverse sectors.

We thank you for supporting the rights of PwD and their care partners, towards ensuring their meaningful engagement and equitable inclusion in mainstream Malaysian society.

Signatories:

1. Datuk Dr. Amar-Singh HSS, Advisor, National Early Childhood Intervention Council; Member, OKURightsMatter Project; and Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.

2. San Yuen Wah, Honorary Senior Advisor (Disability Inclusion), Social Development Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Member, OKURightsMatter Project; and Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.

3. Meera Samanther, Executive Committee Member, Association of Women Lawyers; Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group; and former President, Women’s Aid Organization.

4. Anit Kaur Randhawa, Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group; Vice-President (Legal), Medico Legal Society Malaysia (MLSM); and Member, Association of Women Lawyers.

5. Sharifah Tahir, Care Partner and Advocate; and Founder of UniquelyMeInitiatives.

6. Sangeet Kaur Deo, Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group; and Member, Association of Women Lawyers.

7. Mary Chen, Chairperson, Trustee-Founder, Challenges Foundation; and Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.

8. Wong Yoon Loong, Executive Director, National Council for the Blind, Malaysia; Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group; and President, Malaysian Confederation of the Disabled.

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