In late June, The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment issued a notification proposing an amendment to the Right of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016, to decriminalise ‘minor offences for improving business sentiment and unclogging court processes’. The move has spurred protests by the community of people with disabilities, disability rights activist and organisations.
What amendments have been suggested?
One of the sections under review of the Act has a provision for imprisonment for ‘intentionally insulting or intimidating a person with disability with intent to humiliate in public view’. Under the new proposal, this provision is to be taken out. While Ministry officials say that the Act is being amended to make laws that are equivalent to the offence, the community argues that people with disabilities face multiple layers of discrimination, and that the provisions proposed are to deter punitive action for offences against people with disabilities.
How does it affect people with disabilities?
The community of people with disabilities, disability rights activists and organisations have raised their concerns about the move and fiercely protested the government’s decision. They argue that this move will dilute the Act. Satendra Singh, Delhi-based disability rights activist told the Indian Express, “Penal provisions of this Act are meant to be as effective as those made for SC/ST persons. As the SC/ST Act is strict, it acts as a huge deterrent for offences being committed. The RPwD Act was meant to do the same for us. By removing penal provision, the government is not only diluting the Act but also going against commitments it made internationally and to the UN.”
What can you do?
The government has invited feedback and comments to the proposed amendment. KVS Rao, Director of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities has said that the ‘department is flexible’ and might also consider extending the date of suggestions and feedback from July 10, so as to give the community more time to respond.
So, how can you help?
1. Extend your support to the community by sharing information, creating awareness around the proposed amendment.
2. Write to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment or Director Rao at firstname.lastname@example.org and express your concerns about the proposed amendment. You can use this email template made by Revolio Mag to do the same.