NGOs slam special needs bill

Several NGOs have criticised the recently-passed bill protecting the rights and providing financial assistance to people with special needs.

The bill, which was passed on 21 December, states that disabled people will receive financial benefits of Rf2000 a month. In addition, persons found mocking people with disabilities could be fined from anywhere between Rf5000 to Rf10,000.

However NGOs such as Care Society have strongly criticised the bill.

Sidaatha Shareef from Care Society said “this bill is not in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) that the Maldives has signed.”

The UNCRPD is an international human rights convention pushing a rights-based vision addressing issues concerning people with disabilities.

The Maldives signed a UNCRPD act in 2008. According to this Act, a country must have a specialised bill that focuses on the rights of people with disabilities.

“The term ‘special needs’ is a very board category. We wanted this bill to be specifically for the rights of people with disabilities,” continued Sidaatha.

“We’re not trying to downplay other issues, they are just as important, but we want to get rid of the confusion caused by the bill. People with special needs and people with disabilities are very different.”

Care Society said a revised bill was important because people with disabilities were a marginalised group, and therefore it was important to make sure a proper bill was passed that would give rights to these groups.

Sidaatha also said that in the future “we must carefully think about signing such conventions such as the UNCRPD.”

Former minister of gender and family Aishath Didi said that providing monthly financial assistance was not enough.

“We need to focus more on prevention and screening,” she said. “Screening during the first three months is crucial in early detection of disabilities, and once detected the proper assistance needs to be provided.”

Didi also mentioned the importance of including things like speech therapy in the bill.

The bill is currently with the president who has a week to ratify it before it becomes law.