Gambia: Plenary Adopts Human Rights Committee's Report On Disability Bill 2020

The National Assembly of the Gambia on Monday 14th June 2021 has adopted the report of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters, on the Disability Bill 2020.

The bill, which was tabled by the Justice Minister, Dawda A Jallow, in the 2020 legislative year, seeks to complement section 31 of the 1997 constitution in the protection of persons with disabilities against discrimination and exploitation.

The bill was debated on by the Assembly and then referred to the aforesaid standing committee for further scrutiny and report back its findings to the plenary for final scrutiny, consideration and adoption.

The Vice Chairperson of the Committee, Suwaibou Touray in laying the report, said the committee scrutinized each clause of the bill to ensure compliance with the 1997 constitution, international laws and best practices. He said during the consideration of the bill, the committee consulted most of the stakeholders, including the Gambia Federation for the Disabled.

The bill, he said, complements section 31 of the 1997 constitution which reads: "The right of the disabled and handicapped to respect and human dignity shall be recognized by the state and society. Disabled persons shall be entitled to protection against exploitation and protection, discrimination, in particular as regards to access to health services, education and employment. In any judicial proceedings in which a disabled person is a party, the procedure shall take his or her condition into account".

Touray cited provisions of the bill such as the establishment of national funds for persons with disabilities, obligation to provide social support to persons with disabilities, prohibition of discrimination against persons with disabilities, as some of the progressives that provide adequate protection to persons with disabilities.

He said the committee made some specific observations such as the amendment of the Advisory Committee for the persons living with disabilities to be amended to the Advisory Council for the persons living with disabilities, and further recommended that the amendment be given effect throughout.

"Affirmative action which means person policies and practices which favor persons disabilities, be amended to affirmative action which would mean policies and practices which favors persons with disabilities. Disability includes having long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment, be amended to disability, which would include having physical, mental, intellectual, sensory, visual or hearing impairment and conditions," he said.

Taking turn on the report, Billay G Tunkara, Kantora NAM, hailed the committee for the tremendous efforts for carrying out a tedious responsibility. He admitted that persons with disabilities ought to have a sense of belonging to society.

Ousman Sillah, Banjul North NAM, said the bill seeks to ensure that persons with disabilities are protected by the law. However, he faulted the committee for failing to consult the committee on disabilities on the bill. This, he stressed, is a procedure which must be abided by the committees.

Foday NM Drammeh, Tumana NAM, thanked the committee for the good job they executed and reiterated the need to engage the listed stakeholders.

"The bill deals with persons with disabilities which everyone can be a victim of. In life, one has to expect the unexpected," he said.

He called for the enforcement of the bill once it becomes a law, in a bid to fully achieve the purpose for which it seeks to achieve.

Saikouba Jarjue, Busumbala NAM, said the Ministry of Justice or a drafter should be available to provide guidance to the committee whenever it deems fit to make any amendment.

He reiterated the need for the lawmakers to effectively discharge their duties without fear or favor and must not allow to be used by the executive.

This, he said, will ensure that the drafters have all the requisite, in terms of funding and human resources, to effectively implement any amendment that they seek to make.

Sainey Touray, Jarra East NAM, said the laying of the bill before the Assembly was long overdue saying all hands must be on deck to ensure the passing of the bill.

Amadou Camara, Nianija NAM, said the Health Committee has held series of engagement with stakeholders on the bill prior to its committal to the Human Rights Committee. He said the HR Committee should have engaged the Health Committee on the disabilities bill. He also appealed to the Assembly to fast track its speed to ensure the adoption of the bill.

Ndey Yassin Secka, nominated member, said the bill has been long overdue and that although the committee engaged a lot of relevant stakeholders, it should have also captured in its report the views of the Federation of the Disables.

After a lengthy debate on the report, it was subsequently adopted. The next stage of the bill is consideration, which will be scheduled as part of the session.

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