Iran’s Parliament Overwhelmingly Agrees to Begin Deliberating Disabilities Rights Bill
With only two opposing votes, Iran’s Parliament has overwhelmingly passed the outlines of a bill designed to better protect the rights of people living with disabilities in the country.
The lawmakers voted in favor of the Bill for the Protection of the Rights of People with Disabilities in principle on December 19, 2017, and will soon begin deliberating its 35 articles before a final vote, reported the semi-official Mehr News Agency.
The full text of the bill has not been made public but according to the report, it includes sections on providing rehabilitation services, creating disability-friendly public pathways, and providing training and educational opportunities as well as legal and financial support to the disabilities community in Iran.
In November 2017, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) urged Iranian lawmakers to pass this vital legislation.
“People with disabilities in Iran have long been subjected to social stigma and governmental indifference to their needs,” said CHRI’s Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi. “It is high time their rights are protected in line with international standards.”
The bill calls for the creation of an 18-member committee headed by the first vice president of Iran to ensure the proper implementation of all laws concerning people with disabilities.
During an open session debate, MP Nasrollah Pejmanfar held up a scroll signed by thousands of Iranians with disabilities demanding action on the bill.
In 2015, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration approved the General Plan for the Protection of the Disabled as an executive order and sent the document to Parliament to turn it into a bill. However, despite being passed by MPs, it was rejected on procedural grounds by the Guardian Council, which vets all laws for conformity with Islamic principles.
In 2017, a committee of MPs and representatives from Iran’s Welfare Organization introduced the current bill.
Iran ratified the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2009, but its domestic laws and practices are still not compliant with the treaty’s recommended standards.
Persons with disabilities in Iran are denied adequate access to transportation, public spaces, facilities, and buildings, as well as effective access to governmental services, education and legal protections in the justice system. They also face severe employment discrimination.
Iran’s State Welfare Organization, the main governmental body responsible for providing services to persons with disabilities, provides minimal aid only to some 1.3-1.5 million people out of a disability community that some members of Parliament put at more than 11 million in Iran, due to rigid inclusion criteria that excludes all but those with the most severe disabilities.
The 53,000 tomans ($15.50 USD) monthly stipend that the Welfare Organization offers as financial assistance to a small fraction of the disability community doesn’t cover their basic needs, and state insurance also excludes many needed medical treatments and rehabilitation services.
According to a copy of the first version of the draft bill obtained by CHRI, municipalities are required to deny building licenses for construction sites that fail to provide facilities accessible to people with disabilities. The bill also extends the national health insurance’s coverage of medical and rehabilitation services to people with disabilities.
It also envisages the creation of a fund to help people with disabilities find employment while providing incentives to encourage employers to hire them. Rights experts estimate unemployment rates among the disabilities community in Iran is three and a half times higher than the rest of the population.
However, the bill does not include any provision for services and legal mechanisms to help protect persons with disabilities from violence or abuse.
It also does not reference the need for inclusive, accessible education, especially for children with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, or address the widespread negative stereotypes of persons with disabilities perpetuated by state media. Nor does it provide effective enforcement mechanisms or remedy for violations.