Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities considers initial report of Jordan

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Jordan on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Mired Ra'ad Zeid Al Hussein, President of the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities of Jordan, introducing the report, said that Parliament was about to pass a new and modern law on the rights of persons with disabilities. It was in full conformity with the Convention in terms of the definition of disability; adopted a rights-based model of disability; reinforced supported decision-making; and removed guardianship. A political commitment had been made at the highest level to deinstitutionalize persons with disabilities; the process would start in 2018 and would be completed by 2028. There was a strong social resistance to inclusive education in Jordan and relentless efforts were needed to address stereotypes, change attitudes, and lay the foundation for inclusive education. Jordan was aware that access to infrastructure, services and information was a key element in ensuring equality and non-discrimination for persons with disabilities.

Addressing the Committee in a video statement, the Jordanian National Centre for Human Rights said that the harmonization of national legislation with the Convention must continue and urged Jordan to increase disability allowance paid out to families and access to jobs and decent employment for persons with disabilities, and improve accessibility to public and private infrastructure, particularly health and education facilities, and especially those in rural areas.

Committee Experts praised the prohibition of disability-based discrimination in the highest law of the land, the Constitution, and the generous support provided to refugees, including those with disabilities, from Syria and other countries in the region. They welcomed the decision to progressively abolish the death penalty, asking what effect the continuation of executions could have on persons with disabilities in detention. Experts inquired about the protection from disability-based discrimination and the complaint mechanisms available to persons with disabilities, and steps taken to repeal all laws allowing arbitrary deprivation of liberty and forced institutionalization of any person with real or perceived psychosocial disability. The delegation was asked about women with disabilities, particularly with regard to their protection from discrimination, violence and abuse, and access to justice and remedies. It was alarming that 79 per cent of children with disabilities in Jordan were either deprived or severely constrained in accessing education. This must be immediately remedied, they stressed.

Mr. Al Hussein, in his concluding remarks, reiterated the commitment of Jordan to the rights of persons with disabilities and said that no effort would be spared in the implementation of the Committee’s concluding observations in cooperation with persons with disabilities and the Jordanian National Centre for Human Rights.

In concluding remarks, Damjan Tatić, Committee Expert and country Rapporteur for Jordan, said that the new law on persons with disabilities held promise that the many pieces of legislation would be brought in line with the Convention, and urged Jordan to pay great attention to mainstreaming, strengthening capacity and monitoring, and always cooperating with persons with disabilities.

Theresia Degener, Committee Chairperson, expressed hope that the concluding observations would help the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Jordan.

The delegation of Jordan included representatives of the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, National Coordinator for Human Rights, Ministry for Social Development, Ministry of Education, and the Permanent Mission of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 29 March, to begin its consideration of the initial report of Armenia (CRPD/C/ARM/1).

Report

The initial report of Jordan can be read here: CRPD/C/JOR/1.

Presentation of the Report

MIRED RA'AD ZEID AL HUSSEIN, President of the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities of Jordan, said that Jordan was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008, which had become part and parcel of national legislation. Article 6 of the Constitution on equality and non-discrimination included a particular paragraph which defined the obligations of the State with regard to the rights of persons with disabilities. Following the thorough review of national legislation and policies in 2012, Parliament was now about to pass a new and modern law on the rights of persons with disabilities, which was based on the rights-based model of disability and was in full conformity with the Convention. The Government had consulted with the organizations of persons with disabilities as well as with persons with disabilities in the development of policies aimed to meet its obligations under the Convention, in particular to ensure access to basic social services on an equal footing with others.

In October 2016, the Central Bank had ensured access to banking and credit services for persons with disabilities with complete independence and with full respect for their privacy. Now, all banks were obliged to ensure that their facilities met the needs of persons with disabilities. The new law on persons with disabilities had adopted an up-to-date definition of disability, which reinforced supported decision-making and removed guardianship. Further, the new law compelled the legislature to consult with persons with disabilities and their organizations every time a social status law was amended, particularly with regard to provisions related to legal eligibility. A draft law had been proposed which defined disability as an aggravating factor in criminal acts.

Institutionalization was one of the main problems facing persons with disabilities not only in Jordan but throughout the world. In spite of limited financial resources and constraints, Jordan had made a political commitment at the highest level to deinstitutionalize persons with disabilities; the process would start in 2018 and would be completed by 2028. In Jordan, there was a strong social resistance to inclusive education, which required relentless efforts to address stereotypes, change attitudes, and lay the foundation for inclusive education. Another important challenge was ensuring accessibility to infrastructure, services and information, as access was a key element in ensuring equality and non-discrimination for persons with disabilities.

Questions from the Committee Experts

DAMJAN TATIĆ, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Jordan, praised the prohibition of disability-based discrimination in the highest law of the land, the Constitution, and welcomed the commitment of Jordan to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities. Mr. Tatić also welcomed the condemnation by one of the highest religious authorities of the despicable practice of forced sterilization of persons with disabilities, particularly women and girls with intellectual disabilities, expressing hope that this would bring about a change in societal attitudes. As Jordan was a leader in the adoption and ratification of the Convention, the bar was raised high and much was expected of the country, thus the Committee would address various challenges and barriers to the implementation of the Convention, said the country Rapporteur.

Those would include the protection from disability-based discrimination and the complaint mechanisms available to persons with disabilities, protection of women and girls with disabilities from discrimination and violence, intentions of Jordan with regard to strengthening the monitoring of accessibility standards and sanctioning non-compliance, protection from abuse and violence including in institutions and shelters, and the status of Jordanian sign language and its recognition. The Experts would also raise the questions of inclusive education, the changes to the electoral law and ensuring that everyone had the right to run for office, and the situation of refugee persons with disabilities, to whom Jordan had so graciously granted asylum. Jordan was one of the few countries which had submitted itself for voluntary monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals and the question would be raised about the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the Goals.

Another Expert praised Jordan for the support provided to refugees with disabilities and asked about the role of representative organizations of persons with disabilities in this regard.

What steps were being taken to link the Convention to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

The delegation was asked about the content of the disability and identity card, and to explain how it would be issued and used; what were the plans on the inclusion of the rights of persons with disabilities in the curricula of mainstream education; and the intentions with regard to ratification of the Optional Protocol?

What was the situation of women with disabilities in Jordan, particularly in light of discriminatory provisions concerning the transfer of nationality to their children, the protection from violence and abuse, and full inclusive education?

Experts also asked whether universal design was a part of the university education of engineers and architects; the inclusion of persons with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, in awareness programmes as trainers; how Jordan supported representative organizations of persons with disabilities; and whether the representative organizations of women and children with disabilities were involved in the drafting of new legislation.

What were the plans with regard to the adoption of a new strategy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities and an action plan, which would be based on the Convention? Would Jordan adopt a child policy which would incorporate disability perspectives in line with the Convention?

An Expert noted that there were reports of families in areas outside of Amman who were hiding their children with disabilities – particularly those with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities - for shame and fear of stigma, and asked where those children were and where they lived.

Discrimination on the ground of disability was prohibited, noted the Experts and asked about mechanisms for reporting such discrimination and whether any statistics on those cases were available. What were the measures that would ensure gender equality in the new law between women and men with disability?

Another Expert stressed that the issue of accessibility was not related to physical access to buildings, but to information and education as well, and asked about the recognition of sign language, and training of sign language interpreters.

With regard to children with disabilities, the delegation was asked about the number of children with disabilities in Jordan, the type of disability they had, and whether there were awareness raising activities to discourage the practice of marriage between close relatives.

DAMJAN TATIĆ, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Jordan, asked about the steps taken to raise awareness about the concept of reasonable accommodation among employers and whether persons with disabilities were involved in those activities as trainers for example. How many complaints for disability-based discrimination had been received and what were their outcomes?

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson, welcomed the decision of Jordan to abolish the death penalty but noted with concern the continued executions, and wondered how it would affect persons with disabilities.

Response by the Delegation

Responding to questions raised by Experts, the delegation stressed the strong political commitment of Jordan to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and said that it had built institutions which provided services to persons with disabilities, including the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities which would soon be renamed the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Jordan faced serious challenges in the field of education and it hoped that the new progressive law on persons with disabilities would address this problem, as well as the problem of disability. Employment was another issue as only a small proportion of persons with disabilities were in employment, and there were weaknesses in the provision of reasonable accommodation.

A delegate noted that several questions that the Experts raised did not go into the heart of the Convention – the death penalty was one such question, and Jordan had taken steps towards progressive abolition of the death penalty by reducing the list of offences punishable by death; all capital sentences were subject to judicial review, and were often commuted or pardoned. There had been no cases of execution of persons with disabilities. Another issue was transmission of nationality from mother to child, which was usually dealt with by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. There was no legal text which deprived anyone of nationality on the basis of their disability; transmission of nationality by a women with disabilities did not come under the aegis of this Convention.

Jordan had signed the Marrakech Treaty, which signalled the intention to ratify it and so ensure access to information for persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities did not oblige Jordan to ratify the Marrakech Treaty, stressed a delegate, adding that national laws were as broad as the Marrakech Treaty.

Jordan agreed that the current definition of disability as set out in the 2007 law was based on a medical approach; the current bill proposed a definition inspired by the Convention which was a social model of disability. The new law also went above and beyond the text of the Convention and would also contemplate temporary or provisional disability, which meant that human rights and the principle of equality were encompassed in this draft law. The draft had already been adopted by the Parliamentary Commission and would soon be forwarded to the plenary for adoption. The law further enshrined the principle of non-discrimination and referred to reasonable accommodation, which was a difficult concept to implement and interpret.

Jordan was developing an inclusive human rights plan which would include all vulnerable categories; persons with disabilities were citizens and thus holders of rights. The national inclusive plan took into account the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and included all fundamental freedoms that all human beings should have, thus prohibiting discrimination and guaranteeing equality.

Very few complaints had been filed with the National Centre for Human Rights for disability-based discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation, which was due to an important level of awareness about the need to provide reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities; at the same time, persons with disabilities were reluctant to come forward and lodge a complaint.

Education for children with disabilities was offered free of charge, and it was provided in Braille for blind and sight impaired children. Education facilities had an obligation to provide education to all children with disabilities, and provide them with all materials necessary to follow the curricula such as hearing aids. Public school students with disabilities were also provided with free transportation. Children with disabilities in inclusive education were provided with a “shadow teacher” to assist them with their coursework. There was still a long way to go in integrating children with disabilities in education, and confusion still existed between the concepts of “integration” and “inclusion”. Jordan acknowledged that those were two separate ideas which were tackled separately in a quest to provide education for children with disabilities.

Turning to the recognition of sign language, a delegate said that recognizing it as a national language would meet with some obstacles, but the recognition of the sign language as a means of communication was very useful. There was no formal training for sign language interpreters; they needed to work for a certain number of hours before getting certified.

Jordan was fully aware of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that affected women with disabilities. That was why the legislation protecting the rights of women was in place. The law needed strengthening and in 2016, a draft law had been introduced which criminalized violence, including sexual violence, whereby disability was an aggravated factor. The concerns of women with disabilities were included in gender equality laws and policies. Aiming to address discrimination on the basis of gender and disability of women with disabilities, steps were being taken to increase the participation of women with disabilities in public affairs. An awareness campaign against forced sterilization of women with disabilities had been launched, and there were calls for its criminalization. The campaign was supported by the High Council, as well as by all religious groups, and there was a fatwa which called for criminalization of hysterectomy operations performed on women with disabilities.

Refugees in Jordan were hosted in areas designated as emergency zones. Data on the number of refugees with disabilities was not available. A plan had been adopted on the support to refugees from Syria, which placed emphasis on the support of persons with disabilities.

Questions by the Committee Experts

A Committee Expert noted that the law in Jordan gave the Ministry of Health the right to detain a person and send him or her to a medical institution. There were cases of persons with disabilities sent to institutions and held there for more than 20 years. What were the intentions of Jordan with regard to the repeal of all laws allowing arbitrary deprivation of liberty of any person with real or perceived psycho-social disability?

What were the concrete plans and timeframes for the provision of inclusive and non-compulsory services for persons with psycho-social disabilities in local communities, and were there any plans for the deinstitutionalization of persons with intellectual disabilities?

The scale of violence against persons with disabilities remained unknown and data on the percentage of persons with disabilities among victims of domestic violence was not available. The Committee was concerned about this as persons with disabilities were vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Medical aid and devices were currently being provided in an unsystematic and ad hoc manner – what were the intentions with regard to putting in place a system whereby all such aids could be obtained through one facility, for example medical insurance?

Noting the vulnerability of Jordan to natural and humanitarian disasters, an Expert asked if a comprehensive plan was in place to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and how the inclusion of persons with disabilities throughout the entire plan was ensured.

What measures were in place to ensure access of persons with disabilities to the justice system and to enable persons with disabilities, particularly women and girls victims of violence, to access the police and justice and obtain remedies.

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson, asked about measures in place to protect women with disabilities from violence.

DAMJAN TATIĆ, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Jordan, welcomed the vigorous steps Jordan was taking to address violence against persons with disabilities in shelters. Could the delegation comment on the provision of the 1950s nationality law which limited the transmission of nationality to persons with psycho-social disabilities?

Response by the Delegation

The delegate explained that the concept of prior and informed consent was widely spread in Jordan and embedded in law, and stressed the need to train officials and competent officials to fully implement the new law on disability. In 2012, a bank instruction had been issued to allow independent access of persons with disabilities to loans and bank accounts, and they now exercised this right in full independence; banks allowed blind persons to use fingerprints instead of a signature witnessed by someone, which used to be the previous practice.

Experts had referred to the use of derogative terms such as “derangement” and “madness” in relation to people with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities, for example in article 47 of the health code, a delegate recalled and said that this article would be repealed by the new law on disability. The article further authorised the Ministry of Health to confine to an institution a person with intellectual disability who represented a danger to himself or herself or others; the new law on disability would prohibit institutionalization without prior and informed consent thus repealing this provision.

On endogamy, a delegate said that it was very difficult to prove the link between endogamous marriages of close relatives and disabilities in children, and stressed that the decision whom to marry was an issue of personal freedom, and the State could not prohibit marriage between first cousins, it could only raise awareness among the population.

The nationality law did not make a reference to persons with disabilities in the matters of transmission of nationality, but it referred to persons without legal capacity which could also be someone who for example, was bankrupt. The electoral law referred to “insane persons”, which was a general term which appeared in civil codes of many countries in relation to civil rights. It was very difficult to change the law in one fell swoop, in an arbitrary fashion, said a delegate, adding that the 2011 amendment to the law had incorporated the constitutional principle of non-discrimination.

Jordan was a signatory to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and was in the process on developing its own national action plan. As for migrants and refugees with disabilities, a delegate said that they featured prominently in the Migration Management Plan 2016-2019, particularly women and children with disabilities. The number of displaced persons with disabilities was constantly changing; there were 19,000 refugees with disabilities living in camps at the moment, and many more living in host communities.

With regard to the right to an independent living in a community of persons with intellectual disabilities, which was reflected in legal texts, this warranted special attention and a great deal of efforts in Jordan. Jordan sought the support of the international community in building the capacity to deliver on this legal obligation; additionally, it had set up a Commission to define services and equipment that must be available to persons with disabilities in their communities. Local communities and families were models for housing of persons with disabilities, and the deinstitutionalization process was starting, with the passage of necessary laws. The national plan foresaw that the process would be completed by 2028 and was expected to start in 2018; it would be a gradual process, and foresaw the support and strengthening of capacities of communities, as well as improvement of conditions in institutions.

Turning to violence and abuse of persons with disabilities, including in shelters, a delegate said that steps had been taken to improve technical and electronic oversight of publicly and privately run shelters, and to raise awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities among families. More visits were being conducted to shelters and institutions, including by an independent team – which included members of the civil society - set up to assist the Government in monitoring the situation in shelters. In 2016, 16 cases of violence had been identified and investigative committees had been set up to address each case; those found responsible would face criminal charges, while centres and institutions in question might be closed.

Commenting on the obstacles that customs and culture created to the effectiveness of laws and mechanisms for the protection against domestic violence, a delegate said that customs, social values and traditions could not be changed overnight, as if with a magic wand. In speaking about corruption and its negative impact on the enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities, the delegate stressed that any claim to this effect must be corroborated and supported by evidence, and not based on what someone had said to a Committee Expert.

The new disability bill in particular called for the training of persons with disabilities, particularly children with disabilities and persons with intellectual disabilities to protect themselves from sexual violence and abuse, and also to come forward and report it, thus breaking the silence which provided protection for the perpetrators.

Video Statement by the National Human Rights Institution

Jordan National Centre for Human Rights said in a video statement that despite signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention in 2007, Jordan had still not ratified it, despite numerous calls to do so. Jordan needed to continue the harmonization of national legislation with the Convention, increase disability allowance paid out to families, increase access to jobs and decent employment for persons with disabilities, and increase accessibility to public and private infrastructure, particularly health and education facilities, and especially those in rural areas. Persons with disabilities continued to suffer violence, including by their own families, due to the lack of awareness of their rights and non-implementation of the laws. There were very few centres for early identification of disabilities and they were not distributed throughout the territory.

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the final round of questions, Committee Experts asked the delegation to explain how Jordan promoted multi-sectoral community-based rehabilitation, taking into account international guidelines to this effect. A very small number of persons with disabilities were qualified for work and only one per cent of employees in public sectors were persons with disabilities – what measures, including quotas and monitoring of the provision of reasonable accommodation, were being taken to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities in employment?

What was the legal status of Braille and sign language in Jordan?

Which percentage of children with disabilities were in private schools, and in public schools? Which measures were being taken to reform existing special schools so that they become supportive of mainstream inclusive education? How many deaf people attended university?

An Expert stressed that many steps could be taken to improve the rights of persons with disabilities which did not require financial resources, for example guaranteeing the freedom of expression for persons with disabilities and ensuring the access to information through non-conventional means. The Expert was alarmed that 79 per cent of children with disabilities in Jordan were either deprived or severely constrained in accessing education. This must be immediately remedied. What were the health services like in Jordan and how were persons with disabilities catered for in the health system?

How were teachers equipped and trained to impart knowledge to blind students?

What steps were being taken to amend the electoral law and ensure full participation in the electoral process of persons with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities? What was being done to increase the participation of persons with disabilities in sports, cultural events, and arts?

DAMJAN TATIĆ, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Jordan, noted that the draft law on the rights of persons with disabilities was a very ambitious law which tried to incorporate different aspects of the Convention in the national legislation. Mr. Tatić welcomed that the law had set deadlines for the implementation of certain activities and recommended that Jordan adopt specific and well defined budgets for each of those activities. The country Rapporteur asked about the outcomes of complaints made by persons with disabilities for denial of reasonable accommodation, how accessibility standards were implemented in the construction of social housing, and what was being done to increase accessibility to culture, heritage and natural beauty of Jordan, including Petra, the World Heritage Site.

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson, was concerned about discriminatory treatment of two groups of persons with disabilities: women with disabilities who were subjected to protective custody for purposes of their protection, but which limited their rights and freedoms, and there were reports of serious human rights violations committed in protective custody. The second group of concern was persons with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities in institutions.

Response by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the amendments to the penal code introduced disability as an aggravating factor in criminal acts. A variety of measures to protect women with disabilities from violence were already in place, while steps were being taken to improve the situation in shelters. A survey of complaints lodged by women was ongoing but as a whole, there was no culture of making complaints and seeking recourse from courts, and this was even more pronounced among persons with disabilities.

Schools in Jordan were secular and religion was taught along other subjects, in private and public schools alike. Education was open to all and people had a choice.

Political participation had been enshrined in the Constitution since 2010; polling stations should indeed be better equipped to cater to the needs of persons with disabilities and Jordan had committed to hold its next elections in venues accessible to persons with disabilities.

The greatest difficulty of sign language in Arabic was the complexity of Arabic itself, with its many synonyms and exquisite level of detail, and this posed an additional challenge to the recognition of sign language.

Turning to data and statistics, a delegate said that 11.2 per cent of children under the age of five had a disability and that data on children under the age of five was not available. There were 18,000 children with disabilities in mainstream schools and 22,000 in private schools.

Jordan attached major importance to the right of persons with disabilities to participate in sports, and further efforts were needed to improve this participation, including through the provision of adapted equipment and materials. A special unit had been set up to coordinate access to cultural venues for persons with disabilities, but no tangible progress had been made so far. Jordan was taking action and concrete gradual and progressive measures to improve the situation of persons with disabilities, despite resource constraints it faced, and the support by international donors and organizations in this regard was valuable.

Concluding Remarks

MIRED RA'AD ZEID AL HUSSEIN, President of the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities of Jordan, said that the Experts’ comments and questions had shed light on the shortcomings that needed still to be tackled. Progress on the enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities required greater knowledge and capacities of the Jordanian authorities, as well as exchange of experience with Experts and other countries. The Committee’s concluding observations would be shared with all stakeholders in the country, to overcome difficulties Jordan faced. Jordan was greatly committed to the rights of persons with disabilities and would spare no efforts to implement the Committee’s concluding observations in cooperation with persons with disabilities and the Jordanian National Centre for Human Rights, to overcome all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities in the country.

DAMJAN TATIĆ, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Jordan, said that the new law held promise in harmonizing the many pieces of legislation with the Convention, and urged Jordan to pay great attention to mainstreaming, strengthening capacity and monitoring, and cooperating with persons with disabilities.

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and hoped that the Committee’s concluding observations would help the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Jordan.

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