Archive for the ‘ CRPD ’ Category

UK Disabled Women Talking To The UN

The UK is signed up to a UN human rights convention called CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women). Every few years in the UK an independent organisation called The Women’s Resource Centre compiles a “Shadow Report” to highlight areas they believe the UK is either failing or succeeding in implementing CEDAW. Part of CEDAW is making sure that disabled women’s human rights are maintained.

Two representatives from the disabled women’s cooperative Sisters of Frida are in Geneva as I type to help deliver the Shadow Report and to present details to the UN. I’ve copied the information from their press release bellow if you’d like to know more.

” It is essential that disabled women are represented in processes like CEDAW reporting as too often our experience as disabled women is invisible, this is an opportunity to change this and show how the cuts and legal changes are affecting us”

says Zara Todd, Sisters of Frida steering group member.

For the first time, disabled women (Sisters of Frida) will take part with other women’s groups from the UK in Geneva to address the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) so as to highlight the problems impacting on women’s equality in the UK and what our Government must be examined on, and held to account over, by the UN. This is a unique opportunity for women to raise the key issues they are facing with the UN and the eyes of the world will be on the UK and their progress on women.

On July 17th the UK’s record on women’s rights will come under the spotlight internationally as the UK Government report to CEDAW on their progress. (They were last examined by the UN Committee in 2008. )

Women’s rights in the UK have come to a standstill and in fact some are being reversed. Government policies and austerity measures are disproportionately impacting on disabled women and the rights that were fought so hard by disabled people for are now being reduced. CEDAW is as an important instrument to disabled women as CRPD is important to disabled people and they are inter related.

The Women’s Resource Centre has coordinated a network of organisations across the UK who have produced a detailed shadow report which reflects on the Government’s report to CEDAW which was submitted in 2011. In October 2012 the CEDAW Working Group sent a list of key issues and suggested questions for the Committee to ask the Government to highlight the extent of discrimination against women in the UK which the Government gave a piecemeal response to in February 2013.

The shadow report – Women’s Equality in the UK: A health check – brings together issues impacting on the realisation of women’s rights under CEDAW in the UK in order to support the Government to make positive changes in the future.  These are the recommendations put forth in the shadow report on disabled women’s rights

  • Take into account the intersection of gender and disability and mainstream disabled women in all Government policies
  • Implement an effective data collection system which is disaggregated by sex, age, disability and region, which can inform the developmentof policies and programmes to promote equal opportunities forwomen and girls with disabilities
  • Specific strategies are needed to target disabled LBT women as they experience multiple discrimination through homophobia within disabled communities and services, and negative attitudes to disabled people in LGB&T communities and services

On health and social care

  • Take steps to address the poor health conditions of women withpsychosocial disabilities. Disabled women typically receive healthservices that are targeted at women in general or at disabled people in general, services need to be targeted specifically for them
  • Improving access to mental health services for disabled women must be accomplished by services that respect the right of disabled womento make their own choices, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
  • Allocate more financial resources to Social Service Departments,requiring them to use the interpretations of the social model of disability when assessing disabled people’s support needs for a ‘care package’
  • Ensure women and girls with disabilities are educated about sexual and reproductive health, including Sexually Transmitted Infections and maternal services and adopt reforms to improve healthcare services and facilities, including in respect of sexual and reproductive health

Political and public life

  • Educate media about the discrimination disabled people experience, and encourage them to report the ‘real’ stories including monitoring the portrayal of women with disabilities in the media alongside industry self-regulation
  • The UK Government should offer extra support for disabled women who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials to tackle their under-representation in public policy

Economic and social benefits

  • Simplify the application process to the benefits system. Most importantly, the system should recognise that disabled people are experts on their needs and the difficulties they face. The benefits should allow for them to remove the barriers they experience on a daily basis

Disability hate crime and violence against disabled women

  • Ensure steps are taken to address the heightened risk for girls and women with disabilities of becoming victims of violence, abuse,exploitation and harmful practices, such as forced marriage, in thehome, community and institutions
  • Effective legislation and policies must be put in place, including Women – focused legislation and policies that include disability, to ensure that instances of exploitation, violence and abuse against women with disabilities are identified, investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted
  • Ensure that both services and information for victims are madeaccessible to women and girls with disabilities which guarantee their access to redress and protection, including training of police and others and increasing the number of accessible domestic abuse refuge services

Rural women

  • Increase accessibility in public transport, and train bus/train staff to assist disabled women travelers

“We believe that the way the UK Government is implementing welfare reform is having a significant and vastly disproportionate effect on disabled women. These policies on welfare reform are failing to ensure the rights of disabled women and impact assessments are not carried out properly resulting in erosion of the rights which they currently have. The regression of human rights being conducted against UK citizens in the name of welfare has a disproportionate and exponential impact on disabled people. The changes to legal aid means that disabled women have no recourse to support against the discriminations further compounded by gender, race, sexual orientation, the class system, and underlying social deprivation,”

says Eleanor Lisney, Co-ordinator of Sisters of Frida, together with the Glasgow Disability Alliance (who also submitted a report to CEDAW )

The Appendix 36: General Recommendation 18 – Disabled women is at http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Appendix-36_General-Recommendation-18_Disabled-women_FINAL2.pdf (PDF)

Word doc Appendix-36_General-Recommendation-18_Disabled-women_FINAL2

The full shadow report Women’s Equality in the UK: A health check is at http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/our-work/cedaw/cedaw-shadow-report/

For more information or interviews contact Zara Todd : zaraltodd@hotmail.com 0044 (0) 07952185958 and follow @FridasSisters (twitter), information about other groups from

Women Resource Centre Policy Officer Charlotte Gage,  charlotte@wrc.org.uk or charlotte.gage.uk@gmail.com 0044 (0) 7841508231 @womnsresource

Notes to editors

Sisters of Frida (sisofrida.org) is an experimental co operative of disabled and allied women seeking a new way of sharing experiences, mutual support and relationships with different networks.

The delegation to Geneva is made up of a variety of women’s organisations from around the UK who will be highlighting specific issues relevant to their work and the women they work with as well as bringing issues from organisations in the UK who are unable to attend.

Members of the delegation include:

Committee on the Administration of Justice (Northern Ireland)
Engender (Scotland)
National Alliance of Women’s Organisations
North East Women’s Network
Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform
Older Women’s Network Europe
Sisters of Frida
Southall Black Sisters
Wales Assembly of Women
Women’s Resource Centre

There are also representatives from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Scottish Human Rights Commission and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission attending to provide evidence in their roles as National Human Rights Institutions.

Shadow Reporting – First Steps

After writing this post I started looking into who was writing the UK’s Shadow Report(s) for the UK’s initial 2011 ODI (Office of Disability Issues) report to the UN.

As far as I could tell there was one being co-coordinated by the UK Disability Rights Council under the banner of UK Disability Rights Watch (UKDRW) and I’ve not been able to find that any others are being produced.  After having a chat with the super folks from Disabled People Against the Cuts we decided that it would be a good thing to form a working group to look at producing another Shadow Report.

At the moment there is a small group of us (unpaid, unfunded, volunteers) going through everything that needs to be done and trying to get our heads around the process. Once we have a good idea about what exactly it is we need we are hoping to open up the process so that lots of people can get involved.

Below the cut is a little more about what we are doing for those who are interested:

What are we trying to achieve?

The UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2009. This means the Government now has certain obligations with respect to disabled people;

  • To work to make the rights outline in the CRPD a reality in disabled peoples lives
  • Ensure disabled people have protection from all forms of discrimination including failure to make reasonable adjustments
  • Pass new laws and make policies where appropriate
  • Abolish or change laws and practices that discriminate against disabled people
  • Take account of disabled peoples’ human rights in its practices and programmes in advance, not retroactively (sometimes called ‘mainstreaming’)
  • Collect and disseminate data and statistics in accordance with article 33 (this is to act as a qualitative measure of progress and to aid in improved policy development)
  • Ensure public authorities comply with the convention
  • To report to the UN Disability Committee in Geneva every few years to update them on it’s progress and any problem areas. The first report was done in 2011 and the next is due in 2015, then one is due every 4 years.

The reports to the UN Disability Committee are written by the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) which is part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). As I am sure you can imagine these reports can be skewed to show the Government in a very positive light. The UN Disability Committee recognises this risk and to counter it they invite groups to produce “Shadow Reports”. These Shadow Reports are supposed to show how disabled people view the changes implemented by the government, to highlight problem areas, to celebrate successes, make suggestions for improvement and to help the UN Disability Committee scrutinise the government reports.

We don’t agree with the 2011 report and we hope that by putting together a Shadow Report we can use the UN Disability Committee to hold the UK government to account over the way it treats it’s disabled citizens.  This process won’t be a short one, it may be a few years yet until the UN Disability Committee gets around to reading the UK’s 2011 report but I hope that won’t phase us.

What can it achieve?

In the past strong condemnation from the UN Committees has forced the Government to change laws, policies and practices. The UK has a strong interest in looking good internationally and as such international pressure can really help to strengthen our campaigning, legal challenges*, complaints, lobbying and activism.

* If you want to bring a legal challenge against a violation it will have to be under the Human Rights Act or the Equality Act. You can’t bring a legal case under the CRPD, but you can use it to strengthen your case.

How I can I help?

The report needs to show the reality of life in the UK for it’s disabled citizens. To do that in a clear manner that will stand up to scrutiny we need to collect as much relevant information as we can. You can help primarily by helping us gather information or suggesting themes we should search for information about. You can post up suggestions or links to papers/articles in the comments section below or tweet me on twitter if you’d like.

With regards to the Shadow Report the UN Disability Committee is only interested in violations of the CRPD, so we need to make sure that the data we gather ties into one or more of the specific articles of the CRPD. Once the data is collected we will need to sift through it to work out which articles of the CRPD/ Thematic Areas (e.g. Welfare Reform or Access) they correlate to.

Once that is done we will need to compile the data into a report which will need to be proof read by interested parties before being sent off.

What do we need to collect?

Statistics – Statistics can be used to clearly highlight disadvantage and discrimination (e.g. in employment, post 16 education, hate crime) which makes them invaluable. We need to be able to cite where all our statistics come from so we will need to find sources which can relate to the CRPD. These statistics also need to be as recent and up to date as possible from reputable sources. The Government has a duty to collect data about the areas covered by the CRPD, so any areas where data is missing (e.g. lack of cumulative impact assessments, lack of data on violence against disabled women) is also of interest.

Case Studies – Statistics often don’t really show the effect of disadvantage and discrimination on groups and individuals This is where case studies can become very useful. We need to collect any array of case studies from the media, groups and individuals to highlight the effects of the UK’s disability policies on a local, regional & national scale.

Working Together Under The UN CRPD (Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities)

I went to Manchester yesterday and attended a seminar run by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) all about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN CRPD, or CRPD). It was really enlightening and taught me exactly how the CRPD could and couldn’t be used. I have decided to start with this post which aims to briefly summarise the basics of what I discovered. Hopefully I can get some more detailed posts written later to expand on everything.

1. What the CRPD is:

Certain groups, like children, women & disabled people are seen to face greater barriers when ensuring their human rights are met globally. A number of conventions have been drawn up to supplement the basic declaration of Universal Human Rights written by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1948; one of these is the CRPD. There are no “new rights” or “different rights” for disabled people included. The CRPD simply sets new standards and contextualises how to ensure equality for disabled people all over the world.

It is based on the social model of disability which suggests disability is the result of people with impairments being discriminated against by socially constructed barriers, be they direct or indirect in nature.

The UK signed the CRPD in 2006 (which means the UK said it agreed with the convention) then in 2009 it ratified it (which means it made a commitment to implementing it). This places the following obligations on the Government (which they coordinate through the Office for Disability Issues, ODI) ;

  • Ensure disabled people have protection from all forms of discrimination including failure to make reasonable adjustments
  • Pass new laws and make policies where appropriate
  • Abolish or change laws and practices that discriminate against disabled people
  • Take account of disabled peoples’ human rights in its practices and programmes in advance, not retroactively (sometimes called ‘mainstreaming’)
  • Collect and disseminate data and statistics in accordance with article 33 (this is to act as a qualitative measure of progress and to aid in improved policy development)
  • Ensure public authorities comply with the convention
  • To report to the UN Disability Committee in Geneva every few years to update them on it’s progress and any problem areas. The first report was done in 2011 (read it here) and the next is due in 2015, then one is due every 4 years.

2. What it is not:

It is not law. If someone breaches the CRPD then they haven’t broken a law. Fortunately there are many laws in the UK that cover the same things as the CRPD so that there can be legal recourse. For example if someone abuses a disabled person they would not be arrested for violating article 16, but they could be arrested under the Equalities Act and/or for other crimes such as harassment/criminal damage/causing bodily harm. The prosecution could then be strengthened by it also being a violation of the CRPD as judges are allowed to consider the CRPD when ruling in cases.

3. How it can be used to improve the rights of disabled people in the UK:

  • When successful prosecutions are strengthened by the CRPD it sets legal precedent, or case law. The more case law is built up around the CRPD the harder it becomes for people to ignore it.
  • The government, public bodies and local authorities all have committed to the standards in the CRPD which means that they can be used to point out to organisations where they are falling short on equality commitments.
  • As well as applying pressure on the government internally (via MPs, voting, national media, protests etc..) we can use it to apply pressure on the government externally (via suggestions & pressure or even condemnation from the UN). The government has to report to the UN on its CRDP progress every 4 years, but as you can imagine they often paint an unduly positive picture of their work. We can counter this by preparing Shadow Reports to feed back to the UN. 
To stop this post becoming a monster I’ve put up another post with details of the rights of disabled people here. A fun (and by fun I mean very depressing) game you can play is counting all the ways the Welfare Reform Bill and cuts to the provision of services for disabled people violates the CRPD the UK ratified less than 5 years ago!
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