Today we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities which is a day to celebrate abilities of people with a disability all over the world.
The aim of observing this day each year is to increase awareness and understanding of disability issues, and the gains to be derived from the integration of people with a disabilities in every aspect of life. The nomination and celebration of this day is important in promoting the rights of people with disabilities.
The Inkatha Freedom Party believes that an international day, on its own, is not going to redress the discrimination which South Africans with disabilities face in most communities. Whilst things have improved a lot during the last few decades, but the view that we still swim in a sea of discrimination is still true. In the IFP’s view this international day should not only be a celebration, but an opportunity for us to pause and look both at what has been achieved and what is still left to do.
The IFP believes that there is a need for government to do the following in order to ensure that people with disabilities are fully recognised:
Land must be made available to people with disabilities;
Establish sustainable markets to sell their products;
Prohibition of discrimination;
Protection of just and favourable conditions of work;
Availability of vocational training;
Promotion of employment opportunities;
Promotion of self-employment under self-help and self-reliance;
Promotion of private sector employment through affirmative action, incentives and other measures;
Ensuring the provision of user-friendly accommodation;
Protection of rights for people with disabilities;
Protection of people with disabilities from Gender Based Violence;
Training of more sign language interpreters in all three spheres of government and the public sector;
The IFP is of the view that challenges facing people with disabilities can be addressed by government. Mass awareness needs to be created among people at large and policymakers. Most of the developed nations have informed the public who are sensitive to the needs of the disabled.
Further, the IFP calls for the protection of people with disabilities against discrimination, sexual abuse and early marriage.
The IFP is concerned about the alarming plight of street children with disabilities, especially blind girls who are exposed to abuse and are unable to identify their abusers. These victims are at heightened risk of sexual and gender-based violence and of contracting HIV/AIDS especially since there is a belief that having sexual intercourse with persons with a disability, who are often viewed as virgins and asexual, can cure the virus.
The state needs to take action to protect these women and young girls against all forms of violence and abuse. We are calling upon all three tiers of government to use the media to create widespread awareness and education campaigns to combat stereotypes, myths and beliefs associated with impairments and conditions such as albinism. In this regard traditional leaders can play a crucial role in changing perceptions about persons with disabilities and encourage their inclusion in society.
It is imperative that persons with disabilities play a meaningful role in all decision-making processes that affect them directly. People with physical disabilities are fully capable of articulating their views thereby ensuring that laws that are proposed are crafted with their best interests in mind. A caring government needs to ensure that the dignity and well-being of all its citizens is given priority.
The IFP calls on government to ensure that cases of abuse of disabled people must be prioritised by the courts and swift justice must be meted out to the perpetrators which will serve as a deterrent to others.
Hon Les Govender MPL
IFP KZN Spokesperson on Social Development
083 947 4894