The Disability Rights Unit (DRU) in the University of Pretoria (UP)’s Centre for Human Rights (CHR) was commissioned by the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR), in partnership with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ and CD) under its Socio-Economic Justice for All (SEJA) programme, to embark on a research project to compile a gap-analysis report to be submitted to the those two bodies (FHR, DoJ). The findings of this study were presented to the FHR and about 30 government bodies at a conference centre in Muldersdrift, Gauteng on 16 November 2015. The research findings will also be published in a special edition of De Jure in 2016.
The DRU undertook the project in collaboration with the Centre for Child Law and the Department of Public Law in UP’s Faculty of Law. Faculty members who participated in the research were Dr Ilze Grobbelaar-du Plessis, Prof Van Erke, Dr Philip Stevens, Prof Anton Kok, Prof Ann Skelton, Ms Zita Hasungule, Prof Christo Botha, Ms Innocentia Mgijima, Prof Bernard Bekink, Mr Jehoshaphat Njau, Prof Birgit Kuschke, Prof Annelize Nienaber, Prof Magdaleen Swanepoel, Prof Serges Kamga and Prof Charles Ngwenya.
The aim of the research was twofold: first, to do a comprehensive study of all the disability-related initiatives that have been undertaken in the country, and second, to review all existing South African legislation, policies and programmes that have a direct or indirect impact on the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of persons with disabilities, as provided for in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This was done with a view to identifying current gaps in the policy and legislative frameworks and their implementation to ensure that rights are translated into tangible gains for people with disabilities.
The research critically analysed the government measures (policies, programmes, projects and legislation) to realise, protect, promote and uphold the rights of persons with disabilities. The authors hope that the report will ensure that related legislation and policies become more cognisant of the rights and realities of South Africans with disabilities.
The research findings indicated that since South Africa’s ratification of the CRPD, the norms and principles set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have to some extent found their way into South Africa legislation and policies. However, legislation, policies and programmes addressing the rights of persons with disabilities continue to be fragmented. In their initial country report to the CRPD Committee on the status of implementation of the CRPD, the South African government acknowledges that ‘weaknesses in the governance machinery of the State, and capacity constraints and lack of co-ordination within the disability sector have detracted from a systematic approach to the implementation of the CRPD. The continued vulnerability of persons with disabilities, particularly children with disabilities, as well as persons with psychosocial disabilities, residing in rural villages, requires more vigorous and better co-ordinated and targeted intervention.’
The DRU is making great strides in raising awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities. Recently, on 3 and 4 November and in collaboration with the CHR, they hosted a Disability Rights Conference on the effective implementation of the rights of children and youth with disabilities. The theme of the conference, which was held at UP, was ‘Overcoming obstacles: Towards the effective implementation of the rights of children and youth with disabilities in Africa’. The conference included presentations by scholars, practitioners and disability activists from all over the world, but particularly from Africa. The event also saw the launch of the 2015 Disability Rights Yearbook (previous editions are available at http://www.adry.up.ac.za/).
The DRU is committed to finding evidence-based ways of addressing the rights of persons with disabilities on the African continent. This includes conducting research on international disability rights standards and instruments, building capacity among governments, national human rights institutions, academia, civil society and communities, and engaging with judicial, quasi-judicial and non-judicial redress mechanisms. The DRU aims to contribute to the international disability rights discourse by collaborating with international organisations, academic partners and civil societies across the globe to take targeted measures to advance the rights of persons with disabilities.
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The DRU invites UP personnel who are interested in research on disability rights to contact Jehoshaphat Njau (Disability Rights Project Coordinator: Centre for Human Rights) at [email protected] or Innocentia Mgijima at [email protected]
* The Centre for Human Rights was established in 1986, and is both an academic department and a non-governmental organisation. It works towards human rights education in Africa, the promotion of awareness of human rights, the wide dissemination of publications on human rights in Africa, and the improvement of the rights of women, people living with HIV, indigenous peoples, sexual minorities and other disadvantaged or marginalised persons or groups across the continent. For more information, visit the Centre’s website at www.chr.up.ac.za