Parliament today passed legislation to provide financial assistance and protect the rights of people with disabilities.
Of the 53 MPs in attendance, 52 voted to pass the bill, while one abstained.
Presenting the committee report, Fuahmulah South MP Ahmed Maseeh Mohamed, said a bill proposed by the government in July to protect the rights of the disabled was combined with a bill submitted by Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed on providing monetary assistance to people with disabilities.
A sub-committee selected to review the legislation consulted with the Maldivian Thalassemia Association, Care Society and senior officials of the ministry of health as well as the attorney general’s office.
Once ratified, a council will be formed and entrusted with compiling a national database on the disabled, protecting the rights of the disabled, overseeing monitoring centres, formulating guidelines for their operation, addressing complaints and compiling an annual report.
The government will provide financial assistance of a minimum of Rf2,000 (US$155) a month for disabled persons.
The law states that the disabled should be given special protection in work places and cannot be discriminated against in the provision of employment.
It further calls for the establishment of a special educational centre for the disabled and for the government to provide free education for disabled persons up to the age of 18.
All government schools will be required to establish facilities for the disabled and no one shall be denied an education due to a disability.
Persons found guilty of harassing or mocking disabled persons are liable to be fined between Rf5,000 (US$389) to Rf10,000 (US$778).
Further, public places, such as supermarkets and parks, are required to have facilities such as ramps to enable access for disabled people.
Maldivian citizens with disabilities are among the most marginalised people in society. A study conducted in 2008 found that 25 per cent of children with disabilities in Haa Alifu and Haa Dhaal never left their homes.
The bill was passed today with three amendments proposed by Kelaa MP Abdullah Mausoom of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).
Among the amendments were making people with disabilities on the national registry eligible for the monthly benefits without evaluating the extent of their disabilities.
Mausoom’s most contentious amendment was to make children with thalassemia eligible for the monthly benefits.
During the debate on the two bills, several MPs supported providing financial benefits to families with thalassemia children.
“Parents will have the option of not including their children on the list or registry,” said Mausoom.
The amendment was passed with 35 in favour, two against and 19 abstentions.
During the final debate before the vote, MPs on the committee said the thalassemia association objected to including thalassemia patients in a bill for persons with disabilities.
Maseeh, chairman of the committee, said the bill was based on article 35(b), which states “disadvantaged people are entitled to protection and special assistance from the family, the community and the state”.
He added the bill clearly specified people with disabilities in terms of psychological and physical disabilities who face difficulties in society.
“The bill is formulated to provide financial and special assistance to people with disabilities,” he said. “That is why the Maldivian Thalassemia Association said they do not want children with thalassemia to be given that label.”
Defending his amendment, Mausoom said the purpose of the legislation was providing “special assistance”, which includes families facing financial burdens to treat their children with thalassemia.
Thulusdhoo MP Rozaina Adam said the title of the legislation would not matter to families of children with thalassemia.
Most MPs spoke of the importance of allocating funds for the financial benefits in next year’s budget to ensure that the laws are enforced.