Spanish Constitution Article on People with Disabilities Successfully Updated

Europe, News, December 20 2018

Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, València, Spain

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

SPAIN: A landmark agreement has been made by the Spanish government to amend article 49 of the Spanish constitution (concerning people with disabilities) in order to better protect the rights of persons with disabilities. On Friday, December 7th, the Spanish government approved the plan by its Vice-President for governance, relations with parliament and equality, to amend the article following a consultation process involving all stakeholders.

Through CERMI, the Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities, people with disabilities participated fully in the process to reword the article, initiated by the government on the basis of a proposal from the parliamentary committee for disability policies. CERMI’s key requests have been taken into account in the new wording.

The original article 49 of the constitution was a major milestone in terms of safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities. While it recognized the population and set a framework for protection, four decades later the text had become outdated and, in the meantime, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been approved (2006), marking a turning point in acknowledging and protecting their rights. The rewording, which includes a language review as well as restructuring the article and updating content, brings the article up-to-date and in line with the UNCRPD.

In the first place, the terms used in article 49 have been updated to talk about people with disabilities, modernizing the language employed, reflecting the values enshrined in the constitution and recognizing the inherent dignity of people with disabilities. Secondly, the article has been restructured in accordance with the various approaches to addressing disability. It is now split in four parts, with each one reflecting a different dimension to the protection of the rights of people with disabilities. Thirdly, the areas covered by the article have been amended to bring it into line with current concepts on protection and to remove the medical and rehabilitation concepts which underlay the original wording.

The new wording focuses on the rights and duties held by persons with disabilities as free and equal citizens. It also sets the goals for positive actions by public powers – including personal autonomy and social inclusion – and points out that policies must respect at all times free choice and the preferences of people with disabilities themselves. In addition, it explicitly provides for the participation of organisations representing people with disabilities to ensure they are consulted and co-operate actively in public policies affecting the population. The particularly vulnerable situation faced by women and girls with disabilities is acknowledged in the newly-worded article 49, which makes explicit reference to taking into consideration their needs.

The concept of enhanced protection for persons with disabilities is also included to make sure they are given the specialized support they need and receive additional safeguards to enjoy the rights the constitution affords to all citizens.

Finally, a reference has been added to the protection provided by international legal instruments covering the rights of persons with disabilities.

Here is the new article:

Article 49 of the Spanish constitution (reworded)

  1. Persons with disabilities are holders of the rights and duties laid out in this section under conditions of freedom and real and effective equality and free from all discrimination.
  2. Public powers shall deliver the policies required to ensure full personal autonomy and social inclusion for persons with disabilities. The aforementioned policies shall respect their freedom of choice and preferences and shall be approved with the participation of representative organisations of persons with disabilities. Particular attention shall be given to the specific needs of women and girls with disabilities.
  3. Enhanced protection for persons with disabilities shall be provided to ensure they may exercise fully their rights and duties.
  4. Persons with disabilities shall be afforded the protection provided by international agreements that safeguard their rights.

Source: IDA CRPD Forum

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