On the 26th of August 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted two general comments relating to the rights of women and girls with disabilities under Article 6 and the right to inclusive education for persons with disabilities under Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
General comments are useful tools for UN Committees to communicate their interpretation of different legal provisions entailed in UN Conventions. While general comments ultimately aim at realising human rights for rights-holders, they also help to guide States Parties in the implementation of Conventions by clarifying the scope of application of different legal provisions.
Equinet’s membership currently covers 45 national equality bodies from 33 European countries. The mandates of 40 of these national equality bodies cover disability as a ground of discrimination. Even though the Employment Equality Directive requires European Member States to cover disability as a ground of discrimination only in the field of employment and occupation, 37 members of Equinet went beyond this requirement and extended discrimination on the ground of disability also to other areas. The proposed Equal Treatment Directive (or Horizontal Directive) would extend disability as a ground of discrimination to all areas of life if adopted.
In general comment no. 3 the CRPD Committee stressed that ‘there is strong evidence to show that women and girls with disabilities face barriers in most areas of life. These barriers create situations of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls with disabilities, particularly, with regard to equal access to education, access to economic opportunities, access to social interaction, access to justice and equal recognition before the law, the ability to participate politically, and the ability to exercise control over their own lives across a range of contexts, for example: with regard to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health; and where and with whom they wish to live.’
General comment no. 4 defines the concept of inclusive education to encompass ’a transformation in culture, policy and practice in all formal and informal educational environments to accommodate the differing requirements and identities of individual students, together with a commitment to remove the barriers that impede that possibility. It involves strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners. It focuses on the full and effective participation, accessibility, attendance and achievement of all students, especially those who, for different reasons, are excluded or at risk of being marginalized. Inclusion involves access to and progress in high-quality formal and informal education without discrimination. It seeks to enable communities, systems and structures to combat discrimination, including harmful stereotypes, recognize diversity, promote participation and overcome barriers to learning and participation for all by focusing on well-being and success of students with disabilities. It requires an in-depth transformation of education systems in legislation, policy, and the mechanisms for financing, administration, design, delivery and monitoring of education.’