This issue of Pacific Perspectives is an abridged version of a regional report commissioned by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in 2020 on legislative compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the Pacific. The issue is intended for the wider public to better understand the nature and extent of discrimination against persons with disabilities that currently exists in constitutional and legislative frameworks in the Pacific as well as the opportunities and options for reforms to address it.
Discrimination is found across all Pacific jurisdictions reviewed, ranging from the use of discriminatory language that perpetuates stereotypes and stigma, to direct discrimination by exclusion, restrictions or denial of fundamental rights and freedoms, discrimination by omission when sectoral laws are not disability inclusive as well as indirect discrimination when seemingly neutral laws have a negative impact on persons with disabilities. Many compliance issues are identified across multiple and diverse areas of law, including the lack of accessibility requirements as well as reasonable and procedural accommodation requirements, and denial of legal capacity. Women and girls with disabilities are particularly susceptible to discrimination due to the intersectional vulnerability related to their gender and disability.
However, progress has been made in the region, not least with most countries ratifying the Convention, and thus being obliged to ensure and promote the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind (Article 4). These obligations include “modify[ing] and abolish[ing] existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities” and “adopt[ing] all appropriate legislative ... measures for the implementation of the rights recognized” under the Convention. Opportunities and pathways exist for all countries, regardless of the extent of noncompliance in current legislative frameworks. They can consider enacting a standalone disability law, mainstreaming disability across the entire legislative framework, or doing both by following a twin-track approach. Whichever option countries choose, reforms are urgently needed and can be a powerful tool to begin the process of eliminating the deep-rooted and longstanding discrimination that has been inflicted on persons with disabilities in the region.