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Education and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities in Pakistan

Discuss category-wise existing provisions of training, education, and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities in Pakistan.

In Pakistan, the issue of disability has remained neglected and ignored from all aspects which include administrative, financial and legal. Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are the most marginalized because they are ‘unseen, unheard, and uncounted’ in the country. There are no serious attempts by the government to conduct a comprehensive survey to assess the problems of persons with disabilities. In the absence of data, it is difficult to gauge and understand the scale and magnitude of problems being faced by women, children, and religious minorities.
The understanding situation of women, children, and minorities with disabilities is extremely important because these categories of PWDs are the lowest ebb of social, economic, and cultural marginality. Generally in Pakistani society, women, children, and minority groups are suppressed and oppressed. They cannot speak for their rights and not even resist sexual, physical, and psychological abuse and exploitation. This paper briefly discusses some generic areas about all PWDs, and then in specific, it highlights and explains what happens with women, children, and minority PWDs.

The 18th Constitutional Amendment and the rights of persons with disabilities

In the wake of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, in 2010, there have arisen more ambiguities in roles and responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments and problems of PWDs have doubled. After the 18th Amendment, disability has become a provincial subject. There is no centralized coordination and data gathering mechanism; efforts taken by the federal, provincial, and district governments and civil society organizations are so scattered. All provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) is responsible to deal with the employment, rehabilitation, education, and training of PWDs. The relevant laws had to be adopted by the provinces such as the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981, is a major national law that deals with employment, rehabilitation, education, and training of persons with disabilities; only province Punjab has adopted it in 2012. However, this paper offers details in general terms rather than specific terms covering issues of women and girls. However, information in bits and pieces suggests that situation of

Statistics
In Pakistan, there are no updated statistics on the number of persons with disabilities, and in specific, there are no updated statistics on women and girls with disabilities, and what types of disabilities they are affected by. Disability has been recognized and included in the census, however, “statistics on disability suffer from inadequacies such as lack of standardized definitions. The [World Health Organization] estimates of disability for the developing countries [including Pakistan] were found to be 10% of the total population. But the old National Population Census, 1998, says that 2.49 percent (3,286,630) of the total population was disabled in Pakistan. Of which, 8.06 percent were blind, 7.43 percent deaf/mute, 18.93 percent crippled, 6.39 percent insane, 7.60 percent mentally retarded, 8.23 percent had multiple disabilities, and 43.37 percent others. From the total disabled population. 2,173,999 (66 percent) were in rural areas and 1,112,631 (34 percent) in urban areas. The highest number of persons with disabilities were reported in Punjab (1,826,623), followed by Sindh (929,400), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (375,448), and Balochistan (146,421).

Table 1: Population with disabilities by sex, nature of disability

Sex Total Blind Deaf and mute Crippled Insane Mentally retarded Having more than one disability Others
Both sexes 3286630 264762 244254 622025 210129 249823 270381 1425256
Male 1915102 145656 139168 379989 119139 134489 140393 856268
Female 1371528 119106 105086 242036 90990 115334 129988 568988
Source: Population Census 1998, the Government of Pakistan

Categories and causes of disabilities
The disabilities in Pakistan are categorized into physical handicap, hearing impairment, visual impairment, and mental retardation. Further, these are classified as mild, moderate, and severe/profound.

As there are various known causes of disability, so are unknown exact causes of it. There are chances that a disability occurs due to the impact of various causes. Generally, there are known two main causes of disabilities:

1) biomedical/constitutional and

2) socio-cultural or environmental

The first one originates within the body of a person, and the second one is an inference of causes that originate outside the body including a person’s lifestyle and behavior. Disabilities can begin at any stage of life which may be prenatal, perinatal, neonatal infancy, early childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age.

International Legislation
On 12 November 1990, Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which recognizes the rights of children with disabilities in Article 2 (para 1) and Article 23. These Articles apply to all children including girls.

On 12 March 1996, Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The CEDAW is not directly talking about the rights of women and girls with disabilities.

On 25 October 1994, Pakistan ratified the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention 1983 (No 159). The Convention for its purpose defines a disabled person as “an individual whose prospects of securing, retaining and advancing in suitable employment are substantially reduced as a result of a duly recognized physical or mental impairment.” Therefore, each state party to the Convention “shall consider the purpose of vocational rehabilitation as being to enable a disabled person to secure, retain and advance in suitable employment and thereby to further such person’s integration or reintegration into society.

In August 2011, Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which recognizes issues and problems and rights of women and children with disabilities in Articles 6 and 7 respectively. In 2012, the Directorate General Special Education and Social Welfare (DGSE&SW) has established a cell which is called the UNCRPD Secretariat for the implementation of the Convention. In addition, a Core Committee was formulated to monitor/coordinate with the Federal Ministries/ Divisions/ Departments/Provincial Government Departments/ NGOs/ DPOs for the implementation of the Convention.

National Legislation and policy
The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973: The Constitution is greatly silent about the rights of persons with disability. In one sense, their rights can be seen as equals to all other citizens who are without any disability. However, Article 38 (d) talks about the promotion of the social and economic well-being of the people by the state. It says that the State has to “provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education, and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment.” The Article provides protection to all persons with disabilities including women and girls.

Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) 1860: In Section 332 (1) of the PPC, the act of disabling the organ of the body of someone is considered hurt which carries around 10 years imprisonment.

The Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981: The Ordinance laid a formal foundation for the institutional care of persons with disability in the country. The Ordinance defines a disabled person “who, on account of injury, disease or congenital deformity, is handicapped for undertaking any gainful profession or employment in order to earn his livelihood, and includes a person who is blind, deaf, physically handicapped, or mentally retarded. The Ordinance provides to create Funds and establish the National Council for the rehabilitation of Disabled Persons, and it made it mandatory to employ 2 percent, disabled persons, in the public sector. The National Council’s Rules were notified in 1983. The National Council for the rehabilitation of Disabled Persons: The Council was mandated to formulate policy for the employment, rehabilitation, and welfare of disabled persons. Additionally, it has a mandate to conduct medical examinations, treatments,s, and surveys on persons with disabilities.

The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities 2002: It is a comprehensive document that has a vision, guiding principles, and strategies to achieve the objectives leading to the empowerment of persons with disabilities. Since the disability is a cross-cutting, overarching, multi-dimensional, and multi-disciplinary subject, therefore, the policy was prepared in consultation with the relevant ministries including health, labor & manpower, housing & works, science and technology, and departments and prominent NGOs. The policy included administrative, legal, and other measures for providing facilities to persons with disabilities from prenatal to postnatal period through proper assessment education, vocational training, and employment.

National Plan of Action (NPA) to implement the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities, 2006: After four years, the NPA was introduced to operationalize the National Policy for the Persons with Disabilities; there remained a “lack of ownership from coordinating agencies both in the public and private sectors and particularly at provincial level”. The NPA was an integrated operational approach that aimed to address the issues of access, inclusion, and equalization of opportunities for the person with disabilities by using all potential resources. The NPA has “identified 17 critical areas of intervention from assessment of the magnitude of the problem to service delivery systems. It spells out short-term steps to be taken by the end of June 2009 and long-term measures to be adopted by July 2025” and against each activity designated responsibilities to the relevant departments and agencies.

Some short term objectives of the NPA for PWDs included: “establishment of data bank; sample surveys of persons with disabilities in selected districts; reduction in the incidence of disabilities through primary and secondary preventive care, strengthening of disability prevention programs; arrangements for early detection and institutional interventions; escalating medical rehabilitation services; promoting inclusive education; expanding and reinforcing vocational training; employment including self-employment; legislative support to persons with disabilities; and boosting up public opinion and increasing support to NGOs.” Whereas the long term objectives includes “creation of a barrier-free physical environment for PWDs in all public, private and commercial buildings and public places and revision of construction bye-laws. More effective enforcement and expansion of social assistance and social security program under the provisions of existing laws would be beneficial.

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