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House urged to amend discriminatory disability law

Jakarta Post - August 18, 2015

Jakarta – Flawed regulations have given rise to stigma and discrimination toward people with disabilities. In response, activists have called on the House of Representatives to amend the 1997 disability law.

Head of Indonesian Women with Disabilities Community, Maulani A. Rotinsulu said that Law No. 4/1997 on people with disabilities considered disabled people as problems, while Law No. 19/2011 on the rights of the disabled lacked details on how disability rights should be protected.

"The 1997 law, for instance, defines a disability as if it is a handicap," Maulani said.

Atma Jaya University pyschologist Irwanto, who is wheelchair-bound, said that the 1997 law was a reflection of a society that was insensitive toward people with disabilities.

"One of the sensitivities that people should have is to not pity disabled people nor compare them with normal people, even when your intentions are good," Irwanto said in a discussion on the amendment of the laws on disabled people in Jakarta on Monday.

He said that the majority of the public stigmatized disabled people, which in turn hampered the ability of disabled people to fulfil their destinies and to secure their rights.

Maulani said that life for the majority of disabled people was difficult not because of their physical problems, but rather was made difficult because of the discrimination directed against them.

"My life has been difficult since the time I had to amputate my right arm after an accident. However, it was people's discrimination that hurt me more. The recruitment process for me to join a state-owned bank in the 1980s was smooth until they knew about my prosthetic right arm," Maulani said, adding that she did not get the job after she told her examiner about her condition at the final stage of the recruitment.

Both Maulani and Irwanto called on the House of Representatives to amend the two laws, which were both scheduled for amendment during the 2009-2014 tenure of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Lawmakers failed to deliberate on the amendment proposals, and in time their terms expired and discussion on the bill was forced to go back to square one.

The administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has made the amendment of the two laws a priority by including them as part of the National Legislation Program (Prolegnas).

However, the House appeared to lack interest in reviewing the laws, with only a handful of lawmakers showing up for a meeting on the amendment of the laws.

Disability activists have urged lawmakers to use an existing draft that had been discussed earlier by their predecessors. Unlike the 1997 law, which has only 31 articles, the new draft has 268 articles that provide detail on the rights of disabled people and how to secure them.

"Under the proposed draft, disabled people are those with physical, mental and or intellectual disabilities whose social interaction is hampered by a discriminatory system and a prejudiced public attitude," Maulani said, explaining the more comprehensive definition of disabled people outlined in the draft.

The current draft also contained regulations providing details regarding access to public facilities for disabled people.

Another breakthrough is that the draft mandates that the state must construct a national commission for the protection of the rights of disabled people.

The draft also provides detail regarding penalties for those who violate the law, and violate the rights of the disabled. For example, any person involved in caging people with schizophrenia could receive a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Disability groups have also called for a 25 percent reduction in the cost of public transportation, water and electricity for disabled people.

"Living costs for people with a disability in Indonesia is high. Many of them are forced to take taxis, for example, rather than the bus, because public buses are just not accessible," she said.

Arteria Dahlan from House Commission II on home affairs acknowledged the limitation of the existing laws and she pledged that the House would expedite deliberations of the amendment. (rbk)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/08/18/house-urged-amend-discriminatory-disability-law.html