NGOs cite lack of regulation as a key barrier to Maldivian disability rights

Despite having ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) back in April 2010, the Maldives must provide regulatory reforms ensuring against disability-based discrimination and abuse in local society, according to the International Disability Alliance (IDA).

The IDA, which represents a number of NGOs and charities working with people living with disabilities or mental health issues, has made the claims in a report outlining recommendations for how the Maldives can ensure against discriminating the disabled.

The recommendations note particular concerns such as “the lack of adequate and appropriate services, financial resources as well as specialised, trained personnel” available to children with disabilities to ensure their human rights are not being infringed.

The IDA findings will be among several documents submitted to a hearing of the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in Geneva on Thursday (July 12).

The report’s views have also been backed by local NGO, the Association for Disability and Development (ADD), which told Minivan News that it continued to hold reservations over a lack of policies outlining education, healthcare and employment rights for local people with disabilities.

An ADD spokesperson this week said that although the CRPD had been certified in the Maldives, a lack of national policy and regulation had meant, “there was nothing that could be done” about protecting the rights of people with disabilities or mental health issues.

“Regulations are needed, but the speed in which this process is happening is just too slow,” the ADD spokesperson claimed. “Disability is an area that has been neglected because politicians see other issues as much more pressing here.”

Ahead of its session with the UNHRC committee tomorrow, the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, has provided responses to the list of issues expected to be raised.

The UNHRC has already identified key issues to be taken up with the Maldives, concerning its International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) commitments. A document outlining these issues – drawn from the country’s Universal Periodic Review (with submissions from government, HRCM and civil society), was published in August 2011 – prior to the controversial change of government and fresh allegations of police brutality and attacks on journalists.

Representatives of the Waheed administration including Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel , State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dunya Maumoon and the Maldives’ Permanent Representative in Geneva, Iruthisham Adam, will be present during Thursday’s session to discuss the country’s human rights commitments.

Government view

When questioned yesterday whether the issues raised in the IDA recommendations were expected to be brought up with the delegation at the UNHRC, the President’s Office said the administration’s key focus would be on dealing with allegations put forward by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News that the government would submit its case against allegations raised by the MDP about alleged police brutality. Abbas claimed that these allegations had been “exaggerated” by the opposition.

A number of NGOs, including Redress, the Helios Life Association, the IDA and social services veteran and former State Health Minister Mariya Ali have submitted reports and evidence to the panel, which is to be webcast live.

Speaking last night at a special ceremony held to celebrate the efforts of Maldivians working with people living with disabilities, President Waheed claimed that the state had in recent years been conducting programmes to try and assist the disabled.

“The only we way we can make our society more kind, just and caring is by us all changing ourselves to be more kind and caring towards the disabled. By making the society friendlier towards such individuals,” the president was quoted as having said by the Haveeru news service.

Local media also reported that the president committed to move ahead with establishing a focused Disability Unit under the Ministry of Gender and Human Rights.

Discrimination prevention

From the perspective of the IDA recommendations, the Maldives has been asked to take a number of steps to ratify the UNCRPD and its optional protocol.

These steps include adopting legal measures that would prohibit discrimination against people living with disabilities or mental health issues,  while also preventing the likelihood of them being abused or facing domestic violence.

The IDA also called on the government to provide health care services including mental and reproductive health care to disabled people along with other related services while ensuring the “free and informed consent” of the recipient. In addition, the report also called for authorities to ensure “involuntary treatment and confinement” were not allowed under national laws.

Addressing article 13 of the CRPD, the IDA also called for the provision to disabled people of “effective access to justice on an equal basis with others”.  This would ensure that disabled people could serve both directly and indirectly in the country’s criminal justice system, according to the recommendations.

The Maldives has also been called upon in the findings to repeal restrictions imposed in sections 73 and 109 of the national constitution. These restrictions are said to relate to the disqualification of elected members of parliament or even the president if they are deemed not of “sound mind”.

According to the IDA, the provisions are contrary to international standards on political participation.

“This is confirmed in OHCHR thematic study on participation in political and public life by persons with disabilities, which explicitly states that there is no reasonable restriction nor exclusion permitted regarding the right to political participation of persons with disabilities,” the recommendations stated.

In considering the state report submitted to the UN by authorities n the Maldives, the IDA said that no references were made directly to disability, with the government having instead referred to the Common Core Document submitted on February 16, 2010.


According to the recommendations, Maldivians citizens living with disabilities are presently believed to be among the “most marginalised” in society, with a study conducted back in 2008 indicating that an estimated 25 percent of disabled children living in Haa Alifu Atoll and Haa Dhaal Atoll never left their homes.

Despite this apparent marginalisation, the IDA pointed to the provision in the 2008 Constitution of Malidves outlawing discrimination of people living with mental health issues or physical disabilities. The constitution also calls for “special assistance or protection to disadvantaged individuals or groups”, the IDA added.

“This provision provides the constitutional basis for a number of steps being taken to promote and protect the rights of disabled persons. The most important of these steps are the formulation of a comprehensive Disabilities Bill and a more specialised Bill on Mental Health,” stated the recommendations.

Disabilities Bill

The IDA said the Disabilities Bill, based heavily around the CRPD and designed in consultation with disabled people living in the country, was devised with provisions for the establishment of a special council charged with compiling a national database of citizens living with disabilities in the Maldives.

The council would also be required to protect the rights of people with disabilities, as well as oversee specialised monitoring centres, addressing complaints and drawing up annual reports.

“The draft law also requires the establishment of special education centres for disabled persons; requires state schools to have facilities for the disabled and to ensure that no disabled person is denied an education. [It also] requires that disabled persons be afforded special protection in the workplace and to ensure that disabled persons are not discriminated against in the job market; and requires that public spaces such as parks and supermarkets provide access facilities, such as ramps, for disabled persons,” the recommendations said.

“Finally, under the bill, the government commits to providing financial assistance of a minimum of US$155 a month to all disabled persons, while persons found guilty of harassing or mocking disabled persons are liable to be fined between US$389 to US$778.”

While initially passed on December 21 2009, the bill faced criticism from organisations including the ADD, the Maldives Deaf Association , Care Society and Handicap International for not being consistent with the CRPD document.

Reacting to these concerns at the time, former President Mohamed Nasheed was said to have vetoed the bill and sent it back to the Ministry of Health and Family on January 6 for revision. It was re-tabled in parliament during 2010, the IDA said.

“A general policy on disability is in its final draft form. The policy has been developed after consulting with persons with disabilities throughout the country. The policy relies on the CRPD as its framework and repeats its general principles, refers to most of the rights in the Convention and includes national monitoring mechanisms in line with the convention,” the recomendatons claimed. “The policy identifies a national coordination mechanism, as well as the Human Rights Commission as the monitoring body – both elements being in line with the CRPD.

Mental health policy

The IDA claimed that a second policy on mental health was also at an initial draft stage. The report claimed that the draft include “positive aspects” such as recognising the need for “informed consent” to ensure that treatments were not being forced upon people with mental health issues.

“It also recognises a paradigm shift from institutional care to community‐based rehabilitation as an important step towards protecting the rights of people with disabilities,” the IDA claimed. “It also outlines an institutional framework that establishes treatment services in the remote areas, thereby increasing accessibility to essential rehabilitative services to those in need.”

Disability awareness

However, the recommendations stressed that disability awareness had been a recent development in the country.  It claimed therefore that children with disabilities had traditionally been kept within families and away from wider society.

The IDA contended that a “social stigma” still surrounded children with disabilities and affected the way they are treated in society, also limiting future employment prospects.

“Local NGOs claimed in 2005 that there were thousands of persons with disabilities due to high levels of malnutrition during pregnancy. The government has established programmes and provided services for persons with disabilities, including special educational programmes for persons with hearing and vision disabilities,” the recommendations stated. “Persons with disabilities are usually cared for by their families, and when family care is unavailable, they are placed in the Home for People with Special Needs, under the [previous] Ministry of Health and Family, that also hosts elderly persons. When requested, the Government provided free medication for all persons with mental disabilities in the islands, but follow‐up care was infrequent.”


2 thoughts on “NGOs cite lack of regulation as a key barrier to Maldivian disability rights”

  1. Do media, NGO's , Human Rights Commission and the respective Embassies know the statues of the massage parlor girls held in police custody? You do not know the Maldivian culture of police custodial abuse and hate, sexual harassment. An eye vitness told that these massage parlor girls are locked up in jail nearly naked exposing their bodies for the entertainment and sexual harassment of police officers.
    You know the reputation of Baghee police, if you are accused of a crime there is no due process they will treat you worse than an animal. They are been treated like sex slaves in police custody.


Comments are closed.