Friday, 2 December 2011

Forty-Fourth Sitting of the Committee on Labour, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues

On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December, the Committee on Labour, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues held a sitting bearing one item of the agenda - five years since the adoption of the Law on Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities.

Greeting the gathering, Committee Chairman Meho Omerovic said that the Law was passed in 2006, three years before the umbrella anti-discrimination law, adding that the provisions of Article 32 and 33 on the local self-government units’ duty to stimulate support services for the disabled so as to increase their independence in everyday life and remove architectural barriers making buildings, public areas and transport accessible to persons with disabilities have been in force since 1 January 2007. He opined that, as far as physical accessibility is concerned, the establishment of an efficient oversight and control mechanism is still underway. Omerovic stressed that the adoption of the Anti-Discrimination Law has greatly strengthened the Law on Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities primarily by shifting the burden of proving the discriminatory act from the plaintiff to the defendant and expanding the active legitimation of the plaintiff (to the Ombudsman and Association).

In the continuation, the attendants were addressed by Assistant Minister of Labour and Social Policy Vladimir Pesic who stressed that the Law on Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities was the first anti-discrimination law in Serbia which was the driving force behind all the other laws and programmes aimed at persons with disabilities, and added that Serbia did not have such high levels of discrimination.

Sasa Gajin, Director of the Centre for the Improvement of Legal Studies presented a collection of papers Five years since the adoption of the Law on Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities. He deemed that the Law has resulted in a significant step forward in legislation and legal awareness, as well as a new legal policy that everyone can be proud of.

Ivanka Jovanovic from the National Organisation of Persons with Disabilities analysed the implementation of the Law in practice. She cited the World Health Organisation data that persons with disabilities make up 15% of the population, adding that they often encounter discrimination i.e. inequality, exclusion and violation of basic human rights. Serbian statistics show that about 70% of disabled persons are poor, 55.5% take no part in public life, 80% of special needs children are institutionalised, while only 13% of disabled people are employed. The fact that 10% of them are employed by the non-governmental sector, mostly OSI organisations, and that only 1% works in the business and public sector is an additional cause for concern. She appealed that, in addition to the constant raising of awareness and education within OSI and the professional public, special attention be paid to securing funds from the Republic and local self-government budgets to put the anti-discriminatory measures stipulated by the Law into operation and pass other anti-discriminatory regulations, implement the Strategy for Improving the Position of Persons with Disabilities for the period 2007-2015, local action plans, and allocate funds for the implementation of the action plan for the application of the 2012-2015 Strategy. Jovanovic underlined that everybody must work on the systemic implementation of the Law.

Dragisa Drobnjak, the Secretary of the Union of the Blind of Serbia, emphasised the importance of education, stating that a lot has been done on that score, but the results remain unsatisfactory, and added that securing textbooks for the blind is a big problem. Drobnjak stated that a lot has been done in the sphere of culture by making institutions accessible to persons with disabilities, but that the lack of books for the blind remains a big problem.

In addition to the Committee members, the sitting was attended by Dr Damjan Tatic, member of the UN Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Gender Equality Commissioner Nevena Petrusic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Media and Information Society Snezana Stojanovic Plavsic, Ombudsperson of the City of Belgrade Dusanka Gacesa and representatives of the NGO “From the Circle", MNRO Association of Serbia, National Organisation of Persons with Disabilities of Serbia, Association of People with Labor Disabilities of Serbia, Association of Deaf and Hard of Hearing of Serbia and the Society of Paraplegics and Quadriplegics of Serbia.

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