Prevention of Disability
Human Rights Watch and the Center for Human Rights in Iran found that preventing disability is one of the main priorities of Iran’s disability policy. In a 2015 speech SWO Director Anooshiravan Mohseni Bandpei said, “We should use medical science evidence to remove disabilities and decrease the number of disabled persons to the least possible.”
Including disability prevention as a component of the government’s policies and programs on disability reflects a medical approach to disability as something to be cured or fixed. While government actions to improve public health, access to health care services and information, and other policies may result in a reduction in the number of disabilities, prevention of disabilities is distinct from the protection of the rights of people with disabilities. Some aspects of the current disability prevention policies are incompatible with Iran’s commitments under the CRPD.
For example, the SWO provides free or affordable cochlear implant surgeries for people who are deaf but does not allocate sufficient support for professional sign language interpreters, including in courts, hospitals, or other critical situations. While cochlear implantation may be an option for some very young deaf children, the government should ensure that the resources allocated to promote disability rights are not disproportionately allocated to treatment procedures.
Sohrab is a young deaf man and activist who explained,
State Welfare Organization officials encourage cochlear implantation a lot. They pay part of the surgery expenses. But if we ask them to train sign language interpreters, they say they don’t have money. They tell us that they have limited resources and that we need to improve our remaining hearing instead of using sign language. Instead of supporting us, they want to eliminate us. They want all deaf persons to disappear. The day my heart really broke was the day I heard my favorite actress say, “We pray to God that one day, there are no more deaf people in Iran.” The highest priority is to prevent our existence or cure our conditions to the extent possible rather than supporting us to fulfill our capabilities.
In the agreement concluded between representatives of the deaf and hard of hearing community and the SWO in March 2016 (see annex 2), the SWO has committed to provide clearer and more accurate information about cochlear implantation surgery.
Iran’s policy on prevention of disability has other problematic aspects, including compulsory pre-marriage genetic screening, which has been in effect nation-wide since early 2018. To register a marriage, couples must provide a certificate documenting a genetic consultation. While the law does not prohibit marriage based on the outcome of the consultation, it violates the right to the respect for private and family life. For people whose disabilities have a genetic component, this can have a potential disproportionate impact on their rights to marry and have a family. The CRPD Committee had recommended that the Iranian government withdraw this legislation, which was in draft form at the time of Committee’s consideration.