Zambia has a wide range of well-formulated and well-intended policies and strategies to realise the rights of persons with disabilities. But despite the adoption of important policies and legislation related to the rights of persons with disabilities, a more comprehensive effort in their implementation, enforcement and monitoring is needed.

Contextual analysis and achievements

Zambia has ratified the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) in 2010 and almost all other international human rights treaties. Only three Optional Protocols are pending ratification: the Optional Protocols to the CRPD, to the Convention against torture, and to the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Zambia is also overdue to present its first and second reports to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I encourage the authorities to submit a combined report to the CRPD as soon as possible and to ratify these three international protocols.

In relation to the national normative framework, the new amended Constitution adopted in January this year introduced some positive changes that contribute to strengthening the protection system for the rights of persons with disabilities. These include for instance the mention of disability as a ground of discrimination, and the fortification of the powers of the National Human Rights Commission and the Electoral Commission of Zambia.

Importantly, the additional constitutional amendments that will be subjected to referendum in August present an important opportunity to broaden the protection of human rights in Zambia. I would like to commend the Government for considering the abolition of the dead penalty and I strongly encourage the national authorities to include economic, social and cultural rights in the Bill of Rights. Despite these positive developments, I am deeply concerned about some of the remaining constitutional dispositions that are discriminatory towards persons with disabilities, as I will illustrate further on.

Overall I have found that Zambia has a wide range of well-formulated and well-intended policies and strategies to realise the rights of persons with disabilities. I commend the adoption, in recent years, of the Persons with Disabilities Act, the National Policy on Disability, the National Implementation Plan on Disability, as well other inclusive policies, such as those on Social Protection, on Free Basic Education, or on Youth. The Government has also commissioned a National Disability Survey. I encourage the prompt dissemination of its final results and to include the short set of questions of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics in all other demographic surveys, which will allow the State to disaggregate all national collected data by disability and to obtain international comparable data.  

Zambia has also benefited from several important social reforms, particularly through the introduction of a National Social Protection Policy and the expansion of social cash transfer and other funds for persons with disabilities to some 70 districts in the country, which have the potential to contribute to reduce poverty rates. It is also positive that the 6th National Development Plan, which aims to promote inclusive growth and significantly reduce hunger and poverty, is inclusive of persons with disabilities in all its programmes. I encourage the relevant authorities to ensure that the 7th National Development Plan for 2017-2021, currently under development, will translate the Sustainable Development Goals in the national development framework at all levels of governance and will prioritize the mainstreaming of disability into the various sectors.

Main challenges identified

Legal harmonization

Despite the adoption of important policies and legislation related to the rights of persons with disabilities, a comprehensive harmonization of the normative and policy frameworks in Zambia should be undertaken, to ensure their compliance with the Convention. Several statutory instruments, such as in the areas of education, health, accessibility and employment, need to be adopted in order to speed up implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act and other relevant policies.

I have noted the existence of different definitions of disability and the widespread use of pejorative language to refer to persons with disabilities in several official documents.

Moreover, I am particularly concerned about certain legal provisions that discriminate against persons with psychosocial disabilities, such as those contained in the Mental Disorder Act, the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Prisons Act, the Citizens of Zambia Act, and the Electoral Commission Act. I urge the Government to repeal or amend them as soon as possible.

In this regard, I welcome the request for technical assistance that I have received from the Ministry of Health to comment on the new draft Mental Health Bill that aims to replace the out-dated Mental Disorders Act to ensure its compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
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  • Copyright 2016