Catholic-majority Timor-Leste has moved forward with the adoption of two international treaties aimed at ensuring the rights of disabled people.
The government in an official statement said the Council of Ministers had at its meeting on May 4 approved ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) along with the Optional Protocol that allows for individual complaints to be submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for any violations.
The two documents submitted by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Adaljiza Albertina Xavier Reis Magno aim "to promote, protect and guarantee the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and the promotion of respect for their inherent dignity."
After the approval of the Council of Ministers, the two treaties will be submitted to the national parliament for official adoption. Previously, the national parliamentary commission dealing with disability issues had agreed to the convention.
The progress was made after pressure efforts by civil society groups. On Dec. 3, 2021, the Association of Disabled Persons of Timor-Leste (ADTL) directly lobbied Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak after organizing protests on the issue.
Cesario da Silva, executive director of ADTL, said the ratification of the international convention would help "define the specific obligation of states to protect the rights of persons with disabilities."
The ratification is necessary to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination and ensure equal access to public services in the country, he said in a statement.
Although Timor-Leste's constitution stipulates non-discrimination and equal treatment for persons with mental or physical disabilities and ill-treatment of them is punishable by up to six years in prison, there is no legal umbrella that stipulates the fulfillment of their rights.
According to ADTL, out of 38,118 persons with disabilities in the country, only 25 percent have access to education.
Meanwhile, a report released by the UN in December last year showed that people with disabilities in the country faced specific risks during the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impact.
"These include difficulties accessing medical services, supplies and information, as well as suffering from underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of hospitalization or death if infected," it said.
The report further said that people with disabilities were "overrepresented in the poorer segment of Timor-Leste's society."