Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Reviews the Report of Senegal
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 21, 2019/ -- The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded its review of the initial report of Senegal on the measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Presenting the report, Martin Pascal Tine, Director of Legal and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, said that Senegal had adopted the Social Orientation Act on the promotion and protection of people with disabilities immediately after the ratification of the Convention in 2009. A disability measurement instrument adopted in 2016 was aligned with the international standards including the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. The Equality Opportunity Card was an innovative social protection system to promote the social inclusion of people with disabilities including through their access to benefits in the area of health, functional rehabilitation, education, training, transport, and finance. The participation of persons with disabilities in policy design and implementation was facilitated by the creation of the Senegalese Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities. Senegal had adopted a gender equality law in 2010, set up the National Equality Observatory in 2011, and adopted the national action plan on disabilities 2017-2021 which paid particular attention to women with disabilities. The Committee of Women with Disabilities had been created within the Senegalese Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities as the main mechanism for the promotion of the rights and participation of women with disabilities.
In the discussion that followed, the Committee Experts noted the improvements in the prevention and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in Senegal and noted the persisting issues of concern including the multiple forms of discrimination against women and girls with disabilities, as well as various forms of gender-based violence. Senegal should take immediate and concrete measures to address the violence and abuse against women and children with disabilities and adopt measures to eliminate the exploitation of children with disabilities as beggars. The monitoring and implementation of the Convention was a key obligation of the State party, they said, and urged Senegal to establish an independent monitoring mechanism in line with the Paris Principles, and ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa, which provided protection for persons with disabilities, including persons with albinism. The Experts discussed at length the lack of opportunity for children with disabilities to obtain access to education and were very worried by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among persons with disabilities which was four times higher compared to the general population. The Experts asked about the availability of information in accessible formats for persons with disabilities in accessing justice and measures taken progress the process of deinstitutionalization, particularly for children with disabilities.
In conclusion, Mr. Tine welcomed the Committee’s forthcoming concluding observations that would certainly contribute to the efforts to improve the implementation of the Convention and the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in Senegal.
Danlami Umaru Basharu, Committee Chairperson and Rapporteur for Senegal, in his concluding remarks urged Senegal to pay particular attention to the inclusion of persons with disabilities and their participation in all decision-making that affected their lives, from the formulation and design of policies and measures to their implementation and monitoring.
The delegation of Senegal consisted of the representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health and Social Action, Child Support Unit, Advisor of The Prime Minister, Center Talibou Dabo, and the representatives of the Permanent Mission of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Senegal at the end of its twenty-first session on 5 April. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 20 March to begin the consideration of the initial report of Saudi Arabia (CRPD/C/SAU/1).
The Committee is considering the initial report of Senegal (CRPD/C/SEN/1).
Presentation of the Report
MARTIN PASCAL TINE, Director of Legal and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, informed that a day after the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, Senegal had adopted the Social Orientation Act on the promotion and protection of people with disabilities. Disability management was becoming closely linked to development because of its connection with the fight against poverty, he said. A disability measurement instrument had been adopted in 2016, which was aligned with international standards including the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. The Equality Opportunity Card was a social protection initiative that promoted the access of persons with disabilities to multiple benefits related to health, functional rehabilitation, education, training, transport and finance, said Mr. Tine. At least 50,006 equal opportunity cards had been issued and of those 17,614 were registered in mutual health funds, 25,507 benefited from a family security grant, and 633 had free access to the public transport network called "Dakar-Senegal dem dikk". This innovative social protection system in the African region, the result of the strong political will of the Head of State, was a form of positive discrimination with a view to promoting the social inclusion of people with disabilities.
The participation of persons with disabilities was taken into account in the disability assessment process and the consultation had been facilitated by the setting of the Senegalese Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities. The Head of State had appointed persons with disabilities to positions of advisers in high-level institutions, including the Presidency, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, and the High Council for Territorial Collectivities. The legal mechanisms for the registration of complaints of discrimination took into account the rights of plaintiffs with disabilities and disability was considered an aggravating circumstance with regard to the punishment of perpetrators of human rights violations. In order to promote and protect the rights of women with disabilities, Senegal had adopted a gender equality law in 2010, set up the National Equality Observatory in 2011, and adopted the national action plan on disabilities 2017-2021 which paid particular attention to women with disabilities. The Committee of Women with Disabilities had been created within the Senegalese Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities as the main mechanism for the promotion of the rights and participation of women with disabilities.
With regard to children with disabilities, the 2013 population census lacked precision with regard to disaggregated data on the education of children with disabilities. Difficulties in collecting statistics were being absorbed by the database generated by the issuing of the Equal Opportunity Card. The lack of specific measures concerning the participation of children with disabilities in decision-making processes and public policies was also noted by Mr. Tine. The Government was making considerable efforts to promote awareness about disability issues and several days had been designed to mark persons with disabilities. Awareness raising was accompanied by accessibility measures applicable to the environment, transportation, and information and communication technologies. Mr. Tine concluded by noting that Senegal was always focused on the activities to promote the rule of law and international treaties and this also applied when it came to the rights for persons with disabilities.
Questions by Committee Experts
DANLAMI UMARU BASHARU, Committee Chairperson and Rapporteur for Senegal, thanked all representative organizations of persons with disabilities for their contributions and alternative reports and then pointed out some concerns, including multiple forms of discrimination, sexual harassment, violence and abuse faced by women and girls with disabilities, the lack of opportunity in obtaining access to education and healthcare services, and the exclusion of persons with disabilities from public and social life. Women and girls with disabilities were absent from the National Strategy for Equality and Gender Equality nor were they included in the Social Orientation Act and other measures to advance women’s rights, which held them back from enjoying the treatment on an equal footing with other women.
In the light of that above, the Committee considered it necessary that the Government took immediate and concrete measures to address the grave violence and abuse against women and children with disabilities and uphold the Sustainable Development Goal target 5.2. The State party should also adopt measures towards eliminating stigmatisation and exploitation of children with disabilities as beggars.
Equally important was the recognition of the Senegalese sign language as an official language, and the use of easy-read in the education of persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, Mr. Basharu noted. Furthermore, monitoring and implementation of the Convention was a key obligation of the State party; it needed to establish an independent monitoring mechanism that met the requirements of the Paris Principles.
Finally, Mr. Basharu strongly urged the State party to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa, which provided protection for persons with disabilities, including persons with albinism.
Other Experts inquired about the active involvement and the participation of representative organizations of persons with disabilities in all the decisions that affected them, and whether persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities were involved in through their own representative organizations. Was the awareness raising in line with the human rights-based approach and the Convention? Were officials working in Government offices, judiciary and media trained on working with persons with disabilities?
Experts then inquired about the efforts to empower girls and women with disabilities, as well as about efforts to address any cases of discrimination and violence against them.
How many children with disabilities were in mainstream education and how many in segregated schools? What actions were being taken to prevent and fight the stigmatization of children with disabilities?
The Experts also inquired about the measures taken to harmonize national laws with the Convention and to ensure that the Convention’s provisions were directly included in all domestic legislation.
What was the level of recognition of intellectual and psychosocial disability and what was the practical progress when it came to providing reasonable accommodation?
The delegation was asked to provide information on professionals working in the area of disability and about those that made decisions related to the services and assistance to persons with disabilities. Had they been trained on a human rights-based model for persons with disabilities?
Turning to the issue of non-discrimination, the Experts asked about the mechanisms and remedies available to persons with disabilities and how could they address them. How were persons with disabilities involved in shaping and the implementation of the relevant provisions? Was disaggregated data on persons with disabilities available and used when policies that addressed persons with disabilities were shaped?
How were persons with albinism protected from all forms of violence and what were the awareness campaigns aimed at changing the prevailing attitude towards them and their families? The Experts further inquired about the measures adopted by Senegal to fight discrimination based on disability. Had it taken measures to guarantee access to public programmes, such as education and literacy? Was the notion of discrimination based on disability included in the law?
What was the role of the Convention in implementing the provisions of the Constitution that stipulated that all citizens were protected against all forms of inequality and discrimination?
What were the consequences and sanctions for those who failed to comply with accessibility guidelines and what was the number of organizations sanctioned?
Replies by the Delegation
Senegal had dedicated a National Day for the Celebration of the Sign Language and it was currently establishing an organization for the deaf. The sign language was being codified and its official recognition was in the process.
Furthermore, awareness raising strategies included the organization of national days for different forms of disabilities, such as albinism for example, all in partnership with the organizations representing individuals with that disability. There were also different strategies that involved specialists who focused on various topics, as well as different subgroups targeted by those campaigns, such as media, for example. Awareness raising campaigns were implemented in cooperation with Disability International, while each ministry was responsible for organizing awareness raising campaigns in media.
When it came to umbrella organizations for persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, there were medical and social organizations that developed strategies for children with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. In addition, there were Paralympic teams of children with intellectual disabilities who participated in various competitions, all supported by the State.
Some 5.9 per cent of the Senegalese population had disability and the short series of questions of the Washington Group did not include skin problems. That was why there was no desegregated data on persons with albinism. However, Senegal provided subsidies for the organizations of persons with albinism and had a database of persons with albinism which included data on their access to education and healthcare.
Senegal had adopted two laws, one that introduced the Equal Opportunity Card and its implementing mechanism and the other that addressed inclusive education. These two laws were part of an overall strategy for social inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Senegal intended to set up a committee in each of the 557 communities in the country to address the needs of persons with disabilities. The Senegalese Federation of the Associations of Persons with Disability had been set up and was consulted on any decisions that related to persons with disabilities. Furthermore, there other organizations not affiliated with the aforementioned association that were also being consulted on the matters that concerned them.
When it came to training, the delegation said that State officials who dealt with persons with disabilities were insufficiently trained on the matter. Trainings were now seen as essential and they would be included in all levels of education in Senegal.
The Ministry of Women, Family and Gender and nominated persons from other ministries looked into the needs of women with disabilities. There were also gender focal points within every agency of the ministries to deal with gender-based discrimination. The delegation noted that there were no women with disabilities in Parliament, but they were represented in other institutions, such as the Economic, Social and Environmental Council. The delegation added that there were also several programmes within the ministries and agencies that helped girls and women with disabilities become autonomous, as well as to enable them to access the labour market.
In case of violation of the construction codes and the law that dealt with the accessibility of buildings, the administrative authority could determine not to grant the continuance of the contract.
Any attack on physical safety of persons with disabilities was punished by the Criminal Code and the vulnerability of the victim was seen as an aggravating factor. The delegation noted that there was not yet a specific mechanism within the justice systems to address persons with disabilities. However, when persons with disabilities asked for legal assistance, it was automatically approved free of charge.
Questions by the Committee Experts
Experts inquired about the measures taken to harmonize the domestic legislation in line with the Convention. Furthermore, they asked about the policy to support, empower and promote persons with disabilities to work as professionals in the area of justice in order to promote access to justice for persons with disabilities in general, as well as about the measures to provide information in accessible format for persons with disabilities when they accessed justice.
Did the State ensure that all persons with disabilities could choose where, how and with whom to live and was there a specific plan for their deinstitutionalization?
The Experts remarked that independent data showed there was a high HIV/AIDS prevalence among persons with psychosocial disabilities and inquired whether that was true.
Assistive devices and products were a powerful tool to increase the participation of persons with disabilities in public life. How did Senegal provide assistive devices to all persons with disabilities, particularly children with disabilities, as well as developed international cooperation in this domain? Were there any tax incentives and reductions for persons with disabilities who wished to import assistive devices?
Did the Family Code fully cover the legal capacity of persons with disabilities, especially of women with disabilities and persons with psychosocial disabilities?
Experts further asked about the measures and programmes to prevent violence against persons with disabilities and women with disabilities. What was done to protect women, girls and children with disabilities from abuse and violence and what remedies were in place to help them move on with their lives?
The delegation was then asked to provide information on procedural accommodation that would facilitate effective participation of persons with disabilities throughout the State party in legal proceedings.
How was independent living and inclusion in the community of persons with disabilities promoted? How did Senegal ensure access to labour market, transportation, education and other services for persons with disabilities in the entire State, particularly in rural areas, in accordance with accessibility standards?
Experts were interested in plans and strategies to develop a protocol for protecting persons with disabilities in cases of emergency in cooperation with their representative organizations.
They required additional information on the legal and practical guarantees that promoted and safeguarded the liberty of movement of persons with disabilities in Senegal and out of it.
Did children with disabilities in standard school systems benefit from support and did their parents receive financial support?
Replies by the Delegation
When it came to HIV infections, the delegation explained that there was a National System for Prevention of HIV infections, a National Alliance to prevent AIDS, as well as a strong network of civil society organizations that addressed persons with disabilities in particular.
On the matter of assistive devices, it was noted that Senegal had a National System for the Production of Technology, but it was not very advanced, as well as the National Centre for Orthopaedic Devices. There were multidisciplinary committees that had various types of doctors who made choices on what type of assistive device was needed by children with disabilities and production workshops were making them upon receiving instructions from the committees. Those production workshops were limited when it came to the scope of orthopaedic devices they were able to produce. If other type of assistive devices were needed, the import procedure was organised with the aid of international partners. 4,620 technical aids had been imported and distributed free of charge. It was added that granting technical assistance was not at the moment fully connected with owning the Equal Opportunity Card, but it would be in the near future.
Since 2013 there had been a change of paradigm that of independence in order to ensure the autonomy of persons with disabilities; its manifestations were the Equal Opportunity Card and the Universal Coverage Fund. The delegation added that all carriers of the Equal Opportunity Card would receive re-adaptation assistance free of charge.
The strategy of inclusion in education provided for ordinary, special and inclusive schools. In the most remote areas, ordinary schools enrolled children with albinism and children with disabilities that the schools were equipped to cater for; educational and financial assistance was provided to children and their parents. When access to education facilities for children with disabilities was concerned, there were five buses available in Dakar for children with disabilities that were equipped to transport them. School cafeterias had been made accessible with the assistance of international partners.
As for the early identification of disability, a care centre at the University of Dakar for children with intellectual disability provided holistic care from the very moment they arrived, regardless of their age. Senegal had a Children’s Parliament whose new Constitution was being drafted and would include children with disabilities.
On the matter of deinstitutionalization of persons with psychosocial disabilities, the delegation noted that the approach was mostly community based. There were three national re-adaptation centres that dealt with persons with psychosocial disabilities; a multi-sectoral plan aimed at supporting them was in place as well as social re-adaptation strategy that was implemented through training sessions organized in those centres.
National days celebrating a particular disability were primarily aimed to raise awareness, inform persons with disabilities and those around without them on how to address particular disabilities, as well as to take stock of social interventions in a particular area of disability.
The National School for Specialized Social Workers trained specialists to provide help to women and girls with disabilities victims of violence. The Criminal Code treated forced sterilization as a crime, the delegation noted, and added that the right to physical integrity of persons with disabilities was protected by various provisions in the law, including by the Constitution and the Convention against Torture and Ill-Treatment. There was a degree of tolerance for corporal punishment in the family environment; the Government was reflecting on how to repeal that provision from the Family Code.
All Senegalese had the right of free movement both within and outside of the national territory. The participation of persons with disabilities in public life was guaranteed by the Constitution. Their legal capacity of all persons with disabilities was recognized, as well. The Electoral Code provided that people with disability were entitled to assistance during the voting process that would enable them to vote.
The complaints of rights violation by persons with disabilities were treated with particular swiftness. Current statistics might not be able to tell the exact number of people sentenced for that kind of crime, but the number was not small. The protection of persons with disabilities in emergency situations was provided on an equal basis with the entire population of Senegal.
Questions by the Committee Experts
In the final round of questions, the Experts asked whether a free and informed consent to a medical procedure was required of women with disabilities undergoing Caesarean sections. What measures were being taken to increase accessibility of sexual and reproductive health services and products for persons with disabilities, including HIV prevention and treatment? Was there segregated data available on people living with leprosy and what were the measures taken for the prevention and appropriate treatment of the disease?
What were the criteria for the issuing of the Equal Opportunity Card, was it available to persons with disabilities who were not poor?
What were the plans to ensure people with hearing impairments were provided translation services in public institutions?
When it came to education of children with disabilities, the Experts were interested in the curriculum tailored to individual needs in regular schools, provision of reasonable accommodation, and if inclusive education a part of the teacher’s training. The delegation was also asked about the nationwide plan to implement inclusive education system for children with disabilities, improve transparency for budget allocations for schools, and improve access to vocational trainings for persons with disabilities.
The delegation was asked to confirm the veracity of the information that some patients with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities were chained in institutions and to explain measures taken to ensure that polling stations were accessible. Commenting on the fact that only one representative organization of persons with disabilities was recognized and financially supported, the Experts asked whether persons with disabilities were free to set up their representative organizations as they saw fit. How was the representative organization of persons with disabilities included in the monitoring of the implementation of the Convention?
It was the duty of the State and public authorities to safeguard physical and mental state of families with persons with disabilities. What were the measures taken to provide quality support services to fathers, mothers and families of children with disabilities in order to prevent neglect or segregation of children with disabilities?
Senegal had a minimum access quota for employment of persons with disabilities in public and private companies, noted the Experts and inquired about the impact of the quota system and the sanctions for those who failed to fulfil them. What training options were available to help persons with disabilities prepare for the open labour market?
When would segregated and detailed data on children with disabilities be available, including on children in schools and the number of schools that were accessible to various types of disabilities?
The Experts also inquired about the national community-based rehabilitation programme and specifically asked if its aim was to support persons with disabilities to achieve and maintain maximum independence. What concrete policies and measures did it contain to ensure full inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in all areas of life? What kinds of professionals were involved in the implementation of the programme activities?
The Experts were concerned that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among persons with disabilities was four times higher than that of the general population and that 1.9 per cent of the persons with disabilities lived with the disease. What were the measures taken to address such grave situation?
Could the delegation outline the efforts taken to increase the accessibility to public spaces, cultural, leisure and sports centres for persons with disabilities? What budgetary resources were being allocated to the various focal points within the Government to strengthen their work on the inclusion of persons with disabilities?
The Experts ended this round of questions by inquiring about the number of children with disabilities put into foster families and the efforts made to further deinstitutionalize children with disabilities.
Replies by the Delegation
When it came to organisational capacity of persons with disabilities, Senegal guaranteed the freedom of association for persons with disabilities. Once they had been set up as associations, there was a direct link with the Government for gaining support and enabling participation. During the 2012 to 2018 period, 550 subsidies had been provided to eligible representative organizations of persons with disabilities. The Government promoted the participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in relevant projects and in the drafting and implementation of policies that concerned them.
The quota system in place provided for the employment of at least 15 per cent of persons with disabilities in the public and private sector. The Ministry of Civil Service, Ministry of Labour, and the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Training were in charge of implementing the quota and there was a strong political will for the quota to be implemented.
The Government recognized the existing gaps in the social protection system, said the delegation, reassuring the Committee that Senegal was determined to take to address the greatest challenges facing persons with disabilities. International grants and financial aid would be also addressed in order to improve the situation. Written application and photocopy of the national identity card for adult persons with disabilities or a birth certificate for children with disabilities was needed to apply for an Equal Opportunity Card. Senegal was working on addressing the problem of significant number of children not having birth certificates.
The national action plan on disabilities regrouped public policies for the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and was based on domestic legislation and the provisions of international treaties. The plan had been designed in cooperation with non-state actors and representative organizations of persons with disabilities.
The project on political participation of persons with disabilities 2017-2021 aimed to strengthen the participation of all persons with disabilities and especially in the electoral process. On the matter of sports and leisure of persons with disabilities, the delegation noted that Senegal had an organisation of Paralympic sportsmen that helped the Government improve the accessibility to sport for persons with disabilities and their participation in Paralympic championships.
When it came to foster families for children with disabilities, the prospects for decentralisation were being taken into account. The reason for this were the infrastructural and institutional problems that existed in rural areas.
Senegal was one of the few African countries that developed a Washington Group set of disability questions in data collection; at the moment, it was using the short version and was considering the adoption of the long version in order to obtain a more detailed data.
Free Caesarean section was available to all women including women with disabilities. The need for prior and informed consent was determined by medical authorities on an individual level. Awareness-raising and information campaigns were in place on issues relating to sexual and reproductive health.
Senegal had developed an action plan on leprosy which contained both medical treatment and social aspects of the disease. The organisation representing people with leprosy were involved in the drafting and the implementation of the plan. The 1986 law on leprosy was being amended to enable persons with leprosy to live autonomously, independently, and without stigmatization and activities on improving housing and living conditions for people living with the diseased were ongoing. Senegal was also taking steps to reduce the parent to child transfer of the illness.
MARTIN PASCAL TINE, Director of Legal and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, in his concluding remarks thanked the Committee for the high quality work during the examination of the report and welcomed the Committee’s forthcoming concluding observations that would certainly contribute to the efforts to improve the implementation of the Convention and the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in Senegal.
Danlami Umaru Basharu, Committee Chairperson and Rapporteur for Senegal, in the concluding observations urged Senegal to pay particular attention to the inclusion of persons with disabilities and their participation in all decision-making that affected their lives, from the formulation and design of policies and measures to their implementation and monitoring. The country should increase the resources allocated for inclusive education at all levels of education and vocational training, and ensure that the national budget was inclusive of disability across all ministries and agencies and so ensure that persons with disabilities had full access to basic social services, employment, social protection, and other matters of significance.
Rosemary Kayess, Committee Vice-Chairperson, in conclusion, thanked the delegation, representative organizations of persons with disabilities, and civil society organizations for their contribution to the dialogue.