UN Guidelines on Access to Social Justice for People with Disabilities

v of UN guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities

Access to justice is a fundamental right, as well as a prerequisite for the protection of all other human rights. Norms and standards relating to access to justice for persons with disabilities are set out in a series of binding and non-binding instruments at international and regional levels. Across the world, persons with disabilities encounter considerable obstacles in terms of access to justice. Aiming to make it easier for disabled people around the world to access the justice system, The United Nations has released its first-ever guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities recently. Let’s examine the UN guidelines in a detailed manner in this context.

Mind map of UN guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities

What is mean by Social Justice?

  • According to the National Association of Social Workers, “Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities. Social workers aim to open the doors of access and opportunity for everyone, particularly those in greatest need.”
  • According to the UN, “Social justice may be broadly understood as the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.”
  • According to the Center for Economic and Social Justice, “Social justice encompasses economic justice. Social justice is the virtue which guides us in creating those organized human interactions we call institutions. In turn, social institutions, when justly organized, provide us with access to what is good for the person, both individually and in our associations with others. Social justice also imposes on each of us a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development.”
  • While formal definitions of social justice vary in wording, there are commonalities among them.
  • Keeping the core values like equal rights, opportunity and treatment in mind, we can define the phrase as such: Social justice means equal rights, opportunity and treatment for all.

What is mean by Access to Justice?

  • The meaning of the term “justice” can vary between countries and cultures. However, the idea of justice is common to all, and generally includes notions of fairness, accountability and equity of outcome.
  • “Access to justice” is a broad concept, encompassing people’s effective access to the formal and informal systems, procedures, information, and locations used in the administration of justice.

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What are the barriers faced by people with disabilities in terms of access to Justice?

  • People who feel wronged or mistreated in some way, usually turn to justice systems,  including to civil, administrative and criminal law for redress.
  • Across the world, persons with disabilities face considerable obstacles in terms of access to justice.
  • Barriers can be encountered to a country’s normative framework or national laws where they do not adequately give effect to the rights of persons with disabilities.
  • Barriers can also be faced in terms of a country’s institutional framework for justice, which includes law enforcement and court systems.

What are the implications of such barriers?

  • The implications of such barriers are significant, as lack of access to justice can compound the disadvantages faced by persons with disabilities, leaving individuals unable to protect their rights and at risk of ongoing abuse, including physical or sexual violence.
  • Equally, Justice delayed is justice denied, so timely access to justice is important.

How does the UN define a person with a disability?

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2007 as the first major instrument of human rights in the 21st century.
  • It defines persons with disabilities as those “who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.

What does discrimination based on disability mean?

  • According to the UN, Discrimination based on disability’ means any distinction, exclusion or restriction based on disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
  • It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation.
  • Reasonable accommodation means the modification and adjustment in a particular case so that persons with disabilities can enjoy and exercise human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis.

What are the new UN guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities?

  • The guidelines outline a set of 10 principles and detail the steps for implementation.
  • These guidelines are intended to help people with disabilities to access justice systems around the world.

What are the ten principles outlined under the new UN guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities?

  1. Principle 1
    • All persons with disabilities have legal capacity and, therefore, no one shall be denied access to justice based on disability.
  2. Principle 2
    • Facilities and services must be universally accessible to ensure equal access to justice without discrimination of persons with disabilities.
  3. Principle 3
    • Persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, have the right to appropriate procedural accommodations.
  4. Principle 4
    • Persons with disabilities have the right to access legal notices and information in a timely and accessible manner on an equal basis with others.
  5. Principle 5
    • Persons with disabilities are entitled to all substantive and procedural safeguards recognized in international law on an equal basis with others, and States must provide the necessary accommodations to guarantee due process.
  6. Principle 6
    • Persons with disabilities have the right to free or affordable legal assistance.
  7. Principle 7
    • Persons with disabilities have the right to participate in the administration of justice on an equal basis with others.
  8. Principle 8
    • Persons with disabilities have the rights to report complaints and initiate legal proceedings concerning human rights violations and crimes, have their complaints investigated and be afforded effective remedies.
  9. Principle 9
    • Effective and robust monitoring mechanisms play a critical role in supporting access to justice for persons with disabilities.
  10. Principle 10
    • All those working in the justice system must be provided with awareness-raising and training programs addressing the rights of persons with disabilities, in particular in the context of access to justice.

How these principles were developed?

  • They were developed in collaboration with disability rights experts, organizations of people with disabilities, states, academics, and other practitioners.
  • The guidelines have been endorsed by the International Disability Alliance and the International Commission of Jurists.

What is the significance of the new UN guidelines for India?

  • As per statistics maintained by the UN, In India 2.4 per cent of males are disabled and two per cent of females from all age groups are disabled.
  • Disabilities include psychological impairment, intellectual impairment, speaking, multiple impairments, hearing, seeing among others.
  • Therefore, the new UN guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities will help significantly those oppressed and unheard class of Indian population.

What are the advantages?

  • The new UN guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities respond to the challenges that people with disabilities face in accessing justice on an equal basis with others.
  • This will help countries dismantle obstacles and parallel systems that prevent access to the existing guarantees and rights by all people.
  • For the first time, countries will have a practical handbook on how to design and implement justice systems that provide equal access to justice for people with disabilities, regardless of their role in the process, to bring them into line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other international standards.

Conclusion

  • The new UN guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities can be seen as a tool to ensure that people with disabilities are part of the system in the same way they are part of society that they can fully exercise the human rights they have by being human.
  • It will supply one pillar that many justice systems were lacking – disability inclusion.

Practice Question for Mains

1. The new UN guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities can supply the key pillar that many justice systems were lacking – disability inclusion. Comment (200Words)

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