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'None of Presidential candidates addressed needs of persons with disability'

Mar 2, 2022, 12:44 PM | Article By: Ali Jaw

The European Union Election Observation Mission has indicated in its report that none of the December 4th presidential aspirants addressed the welfare of Persons with Disability (PwD) in the country in their campaign platforms during the presidential campaign period.

The report further elaborated that none of the six presidential candidates even employed campaign means that could effectively reach out to the PwD in the community.

On the Gambia's electoral process in relation to the PwD community, the observer mission suggests the need for intensified efforts and proactive approach for meaningful inclusion of PwD.

The report stated: "While The Gambia is yet to sign the 2018 Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2015 and its Optional Protocol."

"In July 2021, the CRPD was incorporated into domestic legislation with the adoption of the Persons with Disability Act."

"Under the general protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, the Constitution dedicates a section to the rights of PwD."

"The Act dedicates section 55 to participation of PwD in public life, ensuring both accessibility and facilitation, including availability of information throughout the electoral process and the introduction of a quota.”

The Act guarantees the free expression of PwD by allowing voting assisted by a person of their choice."

"Yet, access to presidential candidacy is denied to those of “unsound mind”. The Lunatics Detention Act of 1917, last amended in 1964, dealing with mental health, is obsolete and contrary to the principles set out in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, as, among others, it deprives persons detained in a psychiatric hospital of their right to vote."

"There are no provisions in the electoral law mandating the IEC to put in place special measures to promote the participation of PwD. Moreover, no statistical data regarding PwDs was made available during voter registration, to develop a proactive and inclusive approach such as targeted voter education activities and special materials to address PwD needs, such as the use of Braille labels on ballot drums in polling stations to protect secrecy of the vote.”

"Notably, the priority for PwD, the elderly and pregnant women in the queue on Election Day was underlined during the IEC training of polling staff. No voter information, editorial programmes or articles aimed to advance the political participation of PwD were published either on the IEC website or in the media monitored by the EU EOM."

The report also highlighted that there are no special legal requirements for public or private media to adapt any election related programming for PwD.

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