Indian delegate at UN implies that children with disability do not have the Right to Life
Ms. Shakuntala Gamlin the Secretary of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities while addressing an international forum implied that the Right to life of children in womb with disability depends on “the autonomy of the decision of the mother to bring the child”.
Her statement was offered in response to a question raised at the side event organized by VoSAP and The Permanent Mission of India to United Nations for the eleventh Conference of State Parties to the Commission of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The side event titled “Individual Responsibility to bring about Inclusive World for People with Disabilities” highlighted the success stories of VoSAP an organization that advocates for people with disabilities. Run by passionate volunteers to bring about concrete change in community where people with disability are no longer discriminated but included and enjoy the right due to them, VoSAP works to bring about social change through community partnership. It appeals to the conscience of an individual person to take responsibility for his fellow human being. This is achieved by the mobile application which urges each person to take pledge that they will create an impact in the life of a person with disability. The app has resources that shows places accessible for the people with disabilities and ways to report abuse and violence against them.
Question was raised in the panel on how the PC &PNDT (Pre Conception & Pre Natal Diagnostics Test) Act was incompatible with the present Rights of Persons with Disability Act in protecting those with disabilities.
The PC&PNDT Act which claims to fight gendercide and improve sex ratio also governs the pre conception, pre implantation genetic testing and other fetal tests including the screening for genetic, chromosomal and other abnormalities of child in the womb. While the whole rationale behind this technology was to begin early intervention these they are often used to screen and eliminate the children with disability. A perfect example of this is the legitimization of abortion of unborn babies with disabilities in India through Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971.
PC&PNDT screens for disability and if the child is found to be disabled, MTP Act approves the killing of these children. Therefore the present Rights of Persons with Disability act which claims to be developed based on CRPD is either namesake or seriously flawed. Because, article 10 of CRPD affirms the “Right to Life” of Persons with Disabilities. What is the use of other rights without the fundamental human right- The Right to Life?
When the question was addressed to the panel as how things can change with the present laws and systems in place that aims at eliminating disabled people ‘from the beginning’? Ms Shakuntala Gamlin rephrases the question as “In order to answer your question regarding early intervention and the decision of the mother to bring the child.”
Ms. Gamlin’s distortion of the question concerning the right to life of the child in womb with disability as being related to women’s choice or women’s right testifies the present state of affairs of the Ministry. Her answer simply implies children in womb with disability do not have right to life.
With the increasing incidence of cases in India of attacks against people with psycho social disabilities, children killed on accounts of disability, incidences where families go to court for aborting the child past legal abortion limit only on the account of disability, and parents approaching local authorities to euthanize their children with disability, it is crucial to address the root cause of discrimination which includes ableism and utilitarianism.