Study Seeks To Bridge Gap Between Mainstream Social Activism, Disability Rights

A recently released social development report focuses on disability with the objective of bringing stakeholders closer and raise issues with sensitivity.

Disability rights are not generally included in the ambit of mainstream social rights activism. Representational image. Credit: Pixabay

Disability rights are not generally included in the ambit of mainstream social rights activism. Representational image. Credit: Pixabay

With the objective of bridging the gap between the mainstream social rights activists and disability rights groups, the Council for Social Development released its India Social Development Report 2016, with the theme ‘Disability Rights Perspectives’.

The report was released by a former member of the planning commission, Syeda Hameed and was edited by Kalpana Kannabiran and Asha Hans. Making use of 29 indicators and six broad dimensions, it rates states on their performance on these key parameters.

Speaking about the report, sociologist, legal researcher and currently professor and director at the Council for Social Development, Hyderabad, Kannabiran said while her co-editor Asha Hans had been working in the field of disability for some time, they provided her – and several other authors who were new to the area – an opportunity to “survey the field” and come out with a status report. As for work done in the past, she said several factors had inhibited it – particularly a lack of research done with sensitivity. “The domain was largely populated with persons within the disability rights circle and it was generally seen that disability was not a matter of concern in social spheres.”

In such a scenario, Kannabiran said there was a lot of research but nothing that evaluated the data with sensitivity. The report has focussed on the theme with the ultimate objective of persuading more and more people to dismantle boundaries between mainstream social rights activism and disability rights groups.

For her part, former political science professor and founder director of the School of Women’s Studies, Asha Hans spoke about how the report “strengthens the disability work that is already there”. She said the report fills gaps for what has been missing and the key ingredient missing thus far, was data. She recalled how when in 1989, a panel had asked the states to get data on women and disability, the need for toilets for women with disabilities had emerged as a key shortcoming.

While the susceptibility of women with disabilities to discrimination is a global phenomenon, in India, Hans said “women with disabilities experience combined disadvantages associated with recognition of their sexuality, higher rates of violence, a lack of legal capacity, neglect and exploitation, which impacts their aspirations and their voice.  The discrimination and disadvantage experienced by women with disabilities in India have largely gone unaddressed and unacknowledged by a ‘gender-neutral’ disability service, legislation and policy.”

So now, this report looks at all the aspects, including the absence of proper institutional care. “You will recall how cases of neglect of women at Asha Kiran care home in Delhi had come under the spotlight. Our report highlights how reasonable accommodation is also a relevant part of the rights of a person with disability.”

Hans mentioned that the report also reveals how women with disability were being forced to undergo sterilisation and abortion. “There are about 200 laws pertaining to people with an unsound mind. The legal capacity of such persons was also greatly curbed. They are denied the right to vote and the right to work. So the report seeks both justice and dignity for such women.”

President of the Council for Social Development, Muchkund Dubey charged that some NGOs have cultivated vested interests when it comes to educating children with disability and do not want them to get into the formal schooling system. He also observed that in case of persons with disability, their attendance was more important than their enrolment in schools because they drop out due to various reasons. “There are nearly 8 million children out of school and among PwDs, the percentage of out of school children is very high.”

He said the report carries some important suggestions, including a demand for a disability audit and also has some great chapters, like one one health, which identified the “barriers faces by the PwDs.”

The idea behind the report, he said, is to lead to the inclusion of persons with disability because they face neglect, even within their families and poverty only compounds their problems.

The India Social Development Report is a biennial publication coordinated by Council for Social Development and published by Oxford University Press. Each edition usually has three sections consisting of original, previously unpublished chapters – a thematic focus, a general section that raises emerging critical issues, and a social development index.

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