The Libya Institute for Advanced Studies organized a meeting entitled: Persons with Disabilities in Libya, on the Zoom platform, December 13, 2020, on the occasion of the Arab Day for Persons with Disabilities.
The meeting began with a lecture by Professor Abdel Salam Shalebek, a blogger, who has his own blog and manages a number of pages.
He is a member of more than one organization, including the Zekem Zeina Organization and Nidaa for Human Rights and Development. He is the director of electronic media for the Libyan Paralympic Committee, from the city of Janzour, and currently resides in Britain.
In his intervention, he talked about the superstitious-mythological perspective on disability, where some consider it a defect, or a divine punishment.
Then he touched on some vocabulary that it is preferable not to use in the Arabic language regarding people with disabilities because it carries within it a disparagement of them and an attack on their dignity, which are: People with special needs: All people have special needs – People with disabilities: Disability is not a burden to be carried – Disabled people – Disabled people – People with disabilities. Disability A new name and policy – We must be careful not to treat people with disabilities (especially in the media) as if they are “supernatural beings if they excel in their activities.”
Then he mentioned disability in the international convention, and that the term “persons with disabilities” includes all those who suffer from long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory disabilities, which, when dealing with various barriers, may prevent them from participating fully and effectively in society on an equal basis with others. He called for contemplation of this moving and evolving definition.
He pointed to the human rights approach to disability, and that the rights of persons with disabilities are an integral part of human rights, and they are male and female citizens whose rights must be responded to, and any restrictions from their environments, whether social or political, are considered a violation of their rights and discrimination.
The failure of governments to do their part towards them is considered a violation of the rights of persons with disabilities, which exposes them to accountability and follow-up at the local and international levels.
He spoke about the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the date of its adoption in 2006, and it entered into force in 2008, and its purpose is to promote, protect and ensure that all persons with disabilities fully enjoy, on an equal basis with others, all human rights and fundamental freedoms and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.
Libya ratified this agreement in 2013 after the issuance of a law by the National Conference, and in 2018 it was registered among the countries that ratified the agreement.
He talked about the classifications of disabilities: motor, visual, hearing, and mental, and that their rights are: civil, cultural, political, economic, social, developmental, and environmental, and each of them has details.
He mentioned some of the difficulties facing people with disabilities, including: lack of participation, marginalization, poor integration, poverty, discrimination, lack of equal opportunities, poor education, lack of employment, exclusion, difficulty in access and communication, and lack of awareness of rights, legislation and laws.
He pointed out information and facts about people with disabilities, that they constitute 15% of the world’s population, that they are more vulnerable to poverty, that women are more vulnerable and their opportunities are limited, that most of them do not work, that their exclusion causes a loss in local production, that they are excluded from vocational training and education, and the impact of Disability affects the family and its suffering, and that 80% of people with disabilities are in developing countries, and that they are the most affected by Corona.
He concluded his intervention by talking about the statistics of people with disabilities in Libya.
Then there was an intervention by Mr. Abdul Jalil Al-Saadawi, a human rights activist and legal researcher, an official notary at the Misrata Court of Appeal, a former candidate for the Misurata Municipal Council on the quota for persons with disabilities, and President of the General Assembly of the Nidaa Organization for Human Rights and Community Development.
Libya has a long history of paying attention to the rights of people with disabilities, in terms of laws, despite the circumstances in which the country exists, and despite the implementation of some laws, there is very good legal material, that needs some development.
Libya was one of the first countries to pioneer in 1987, when it issued the Disabled Persons Law, and the United Nations asked member states to follow Libya’s example in this, as well as the Basic Pension Law of 1983, which gives people with disabilities a basic right.
Law No. 5, of 1987, the right of persons with disabilities to certain privileges, the provision of compensatory tools, education, special integration, the right to education, and providing them with the necessary things to follow them up from within the Social Solidarity Fund, and the right to home assistance.
A percentage of no less than 5% in the Labor Law, and Law No. 3 of 2014 protects war casualties, which is in violation of the international convention because it discriminates between people with disabilities, and deprives married women with disabilities of the basic salary, and it was amended in November 2020. People with special needs suffer from the educational aspect and the societal aspect.
Then there was an intervention by Mr. Muhammad Khaled Osman, from the city of Zawiya, Vice President of the Peace Birds Organization for Human Rights, a social worker in Zawiya’s Education Monitoring, a member of the Access Campaign team, and a media professional.
People with disabilities have their rights between reality, ambition and hope. We seek to achieve this through a struggle with organizations and activists.
Their rights have been stipulated in national legislation and international agreements, but they have not been confirmed on the ground. There are barriers, obstacles, and regulations that prevent people.
We are a group of organisations, we have set up an ‘Access’ campaign for access for people with disabilities to public education, university education, jobs and public institutions.
A continuous campaign to put pressure on decision-makers to ensure that public institutions are prepared and accessible.
The agreement became an important part of Libyan legislation, but it was not implemented or taken into account. Officials did not understand the fact that the agreement became a law that was not implemented, and it should be confirmed, but the process continues.
The culture of society now is a negative, stereotypical culture that views people with disabilities as people who need help or compassion, but we are working to ensure that the human rights approach is the one through which the state operates.
There is no person with a disability, but there is a disabled environment.
Three important terms I would like to comment on:
People with special needs: (children, women, and the elderly have special needs).
Disabled: (It is a very offensive word).
People with disabilities (we accepted this name, and it applies to me, and disability is not a shame)
I hope that the media will educate themselves and learn about the human rights approach to people with disabilities.
We still suffer from discrimination, exclusion, and marginalization which is the rule of the government at various levels.
Even the United Nations Support Mission now does not look at people with disabilities the same as others. Why are they neglected? Why does the mission talk about the role of youth and the role of women? They are not included in any events or in any activities held by the mission. We deplore it here, and today, by the way, the Access Campaign team held a press conference about the work carried out by the mission. We expressed our dissatisfaction with that.
Then there was an intervention by Mr. Muhammad Al-Salini Al-Fitouri, President of the International Organization for the Protection of Children and People with Disabilities in Libya, and the official spokesman for the Libyan Paralympic Committee.
We must put our hands on the wound, which is to raise awareness of the community, recognize the weaknesses, and unify efforts to work on a new law for persons with disabilities, and we have reached the final draft of this law, because Law No. 5 is flawed, as there are no penalties.
Solving the problem, educating the people, raising awareness, intensive campaigns, working to introduce a new law, or amending Law No. 5, unifying efforts.
It is necessary for the curriculum to include the legal perspective of persons with disabilities, across the various stages of education, and for master’s and doctoral theses to be established in faculties of law and faculties of sociology.
The absence of the media did not rise to the understanding of the rights of people with disabilities and their role in that.
The necessity of media programs that discuss issues of people with disabilities on many satellite channels.