Models of disability in Zimbabwe

As has already been highlighted, models used by a country in managing disability issues impacts on the promotion of the rights of people with disabilities. Rugoho (2017) observed the importance of using the right-based approach rather than the charitable or medical models in disability management. Disability models which are used in a country provide lenses on the commitment of governments in protecting and guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities. Countries which promote the medical or charitable models are generally lagging behind with respect to disability rights, compared with those using the rights-based models. Zimbabwe and Uganda are two typical countries which can be used to illustrate this assertion. Zimbabwe uses the medical and charitable models in disability management. As such, people with disabilities have little opportunities in all spheres of life in Zimbabwe, including sexual and reproductive health. Uganda, on the other side, uses the rights-based model, with people with disabilities having more opportunities. In Uganda, people with disabilities are more involved in political and social participation.They are represented in critical decision-making boards such as the parliament and government ministries.

Utilising the charitable model of disability is toxic to the general promotion of rights for people with disability in Zimbabwe, especially in the area of sexual and reproductive health

(Rugoho 2019). The Zimbabwean government views disability issues as the preserve of the church and non-governmental bodies. The premise is that that non-governmental organisations and the church are better equipped to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities. The government in Zimbabwe abrogates its responsibilities as a primary duty' bearer in guaranteeing the rights of people with disabilities. Non-governmental organisations can do little to improve the situation of people with disabilities. The government has been accused of perpetuating the marginalisation of people with disabilities, because of their welfare approach to disability (Rugoho and Maphosa 2017).

The medical model approach has also affected the inclusion of all people with disabilities with respect to development and policy issues. The Disability Act (1992) takes a narrow medical definition of disability. The Disability Act had been accused of excluding other disabilities. The Zimbabwe constitution (2013) section 22 (1) states that “the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must recognise the rights of persons with physical or mental disabilities, in particular their right to be treated with respect and dignity.” This, however, is dismissed by section 83 of the constitution, which clearly states that people with disabilities can only' access their rights based on availability of resources. Other diverse groups of people, such as older adults, war veterans and/or women and children, were never mentioned in the constitution . This clearly shows that the Government of Zimbabwe views disability as expensive. The charitable model of disability is also popular in Zimbabwe, where, for example, people with disabilities are treated with pity. It is the duty' of the society to provide for people with disabilities. Others argue that those people with disabilities, who are viewed from a pity perspective, cannot be given sexual and reproductive rights. Once you are pitied, you are surviving at other people s mercy', and it is very hard to demand y'our sexual and reproductive rights.

Political will in promotion of rights, including sexual rights, of people with disabilities

Political will is important for the success of the promotion and implementation of any policy'. Governments need to commit to the rights of people with disabilities to avoid their rights remaining at the bottom of the public policy heap. There is need for a radical approach to disability' rights. Many' brilliant ideas and initiatives have been unsuccessful because of a lack of the political will to implement them. Zimbabwe is one of the countries in the world which has been commended for coming up with brilliant policy' documents. However, it has been criticised for failing to implement disability-related initiatives. Rugoho and Maphosa (2017) observed that the government of Zimbabwe lacks the political will with respect to the promotion of policies towards people with disabilities in general. Zimbabwe was one of the first countries in the world to adopt and create a disability-related law, With the Disability Act being adopted in 1992.This Act resulted in a number of countries learning from Zimbabwe on how to create disability-related laws.The Disability Act of 1992, although considered to be a progressive law in the promotion of the people with disabilities in Zimbabwe, suffered a still birth because it was never fully' implemented (Mtetwa 201 l).The Act prohibited discrimination on the grounds of disability'. It further stated that no people with disabilities should be denied services due to restrictive environments, such as physical, cultural or social barriers. Reading the law, one would assume that health and sexuality were among the services which were being referred to in the act.

Another example which clearly shows that Government is not committed to the promotion of people with disability rights is the ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (UN General Assembly' 2007). The CRPD is a legally binding international human rights treaty which addresses the rights of people with disabilities. There had been promises by Zimbabwe governments year after year on the implementation of the CRPD but nothing has been done on the ground. During international peer review of the CRPD, Zimbabwe continued to present fabricated results on the status of the disability situation in the country. The first author of this chapter attended the deliberations focused on discussing the degree to which Zimbabwe had improved conditions for people with disabilities. He observed that the government ministers lied on what was actually occurring within their respective ministries. From reading interministerial reports on disability, one would get the impression that people with disabilities in Zimbabwe were being included in policy developments.

Moyo Delight (2010) observed that, after Zimbabwe had adopted the Disability Act 1992, it shaped disability laws in many African countries. Countries like Botswana, Malawi, Uganda and many others learned from the Zimbabwean experience in promoting the rights of people with disabilities. Whereas Zimbabwe seems to have adopted an impressive piece of legislation, the law was not implemented or amended. The ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union—Patriotic Front, which has been in government since 1980, had been promising people with disabilities improvement in their rights during their political rallies.

A number of Disability Expos and related events had been held in Zimbabwe, led by the Office of the President. These Disability Expo events appeared to be a platform created by the government with the goal of showcasing opportunities available for people with disabilities. People with disabilities were invited from all over the country to these events, receiving the message that the government would include them in decisions. Rugoho (2017) questioned whether or not there was any intent to genuinely improve the rights of people with disabilities. During these events, different ministries were invited to listen to the concerns of people with disabilities. However, government ministries were represented by low-level government officials. These lower-level officials do not participate in the deliberations of the meetings of their ministries where important policy decisions are made.

Policy on sexual and reproductive health

The constitution of Zimbabwe is the supreme document in the promotion of citizens’ rights. Howie (2018) further observed that the constitution spells out the civil and political rights of its citizens. The constitution should guarantee the promotion and protection of fundamental rights. Access to sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental right to all human beings (Jones 2015; Uberoi 2013). However, people with disabilities were not included in the conceptualisation of these rights until the adoption of the CRPD by the UN on 13 December 2006, after which people with disabilities began to be represented under human rights initiatives (Hoffman 2016; Scholten 2018).The CRPD was also one of the first international laws on disabilities to explicitly recognise the need for sexual and reproductive health rights for people with disabilities (Degener 2016). Several articles of the CRPD recognise specific areas which prevent people with disabilities from realising their full potential. It also recognises that women with disabilities face several challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health information. It called for States to put necessary measures in place to ensure disabled peoples full and equal opportunity of rights, as well as their full development, advancement and empowerment. Furthermore, governments must systematically mainstream the rights of girls with disabilities in all their national plans and policies, as well as in their sectoral plans.

The constitution of Zimbabwe does not advocate the promotion of disability rights. It does not promote the rights of people with disabilities because it continues to view them from a charitable perspective. The constitution does not clearly indicate the sexual and reproductive rights of people with disabilities. Section 83 (d) notes that people with disabilities will have access to medical, psychological and functional treatment. Relevant department and ministries were supposed to formulate policies and practices which facilitate access to sexual and reproductive health for people with disabilities. More than six years after the adoption of the new constitution in 2013, nothing has been done by the Ministry of Health to develop inclusive policies for people with disabilities. In Zimbabwe, sexual and reproductive health issues came into the headlines in 2006, when the government formulated the National Reproductive Health Policy (2006).The policy offers services such as maternal health, family planning, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS, and adolescent reproductive health. Surprisingly, the policy proffered few interventions tor women with disabilities.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >