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05.06.2019 Feature Article

Digesting the transcendent chiefs, disability discrimination, quaint custom and traditions

Digesting the transcendent chiefs, disability discrimination, quaint custom and traditions

More recently, I listened, though with an extreme horror, to a certain transcendent chief who unblushingly denounced his friendship with a gentleman who has unfortunately suffered blindness through no fault of his own.

What is more troubling though, is that the gentleman was attacked and shot in the face by alleged assailants who were looking for the said chief in his house where the gentleman was lodging.

Regrettably, however, the gentleman lost his eyesight following a protracted, yet unsuccessful medical treatment. And, the said chief has since declined to meet him in person with a flimsy, albeit disgusting excuse that transcendent chiefs are forbidden to come into a close contact with a disabled person.

If you may recall, somewhere last year, a certain Nana Asiedu Kweku Donkor, an ‘Nkosuohene’ (Development Chief) of the Kwahu Traditional Area gave his unwavering support to Mr Alban Bagbin, the NDC’s 2020 presidential aspirant when he asserted that the appointment of a Person with Disability to the Chieftaincy Ministry was a wrong move by the Mahama administration (See: Chief defends Bagbin's remarks on "disabled" appointees “; graphic.com.gh/ghanaweb.com, 27/08/2018).

The seemingly ableist Chief was reported to have opined somewhat carelessly: “In Ghanaian tradition, chiefs are not allowed to deal with people who are physically challenged in anyway, including; people who suffer blindness, and so Mr Bagbin had spoken the truth when he said the appointment of somebody like that as Minister for Chieftaincy Affairs had courted anger from the chiefs.”

“Ableism or ablism is a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities. It may also be referred to as disability discrimination, ablecentrism, physicalism, handicapism, and disability oppression.

“It includes apotemnophobia and dysmorphophobia. It is also sometimes known as disablism, although there is some dispute as to whether ableism and disablism are synonymous, and some people within disability rights circles find the latter term’s use inaccurate. Discrimination faced by those who have or are perceived to have a mental disorder is sometimes called mentalism rather than ableism.”

While the international community is working collaboratively towards forging inclusiveness, the Chiefs who supposed to promote development in their communities are regrettably dragging us backwards with their antiquated views.

“Disability is part of the human condition. Almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life, and those who survive to old age will experience increasing difficulties in functioning” (The World Report On Disability, 2011, p. 10).

The World Health Organization's report reveals that over a billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability. It is estimated that between

110 million (2.2%) and 190 million (3.8%) people of 15 years and older have significant difficulties in functioning.

The report however stresses that in the years ahead, disability will be an even greater concern because its prevalence is on the rise. This is apparently

due to ageing populations and the higher risk of disability in older people as well as the global increase in chronic health conditions, such as diabetes,

cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health disorders (WHO Report, 2011).

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) affirms that disability is increasingly understood as a human rights issue.

Disability is also an important development issue with an increasing body of evidence showing that persons with disabilities often experience worse socio economic outcomes and poverty than persons without disabilities (World Report on Disability, 2011).

For the purposes of this article, I will define disability as: “any physical, mental and sensory condition that restricts a person's movements, senses or

activities.”
The term disability is formally used to refer to deformations that are severe enough to interfere with, or restrict normal day-to-day living activities.

According to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “persons with disabilities include those who have substantial 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.”

On the other hand, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.

ICF thus stresses that impairment is a problem in body function or structure. Whereas an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action and a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person's body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

In practice, therefore, disability is a continuum rather than categorizing people with disabilities as a separate group: disability is a matter of more, or less, not yes or no.

In other words, disability is the interaction between individuals with a health condition (e.g. cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, or depression) and personal and environmental factors (e.g. negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings and limited social supports).

Thus, overcoming the difficulties faced by people with disabilities requires interventions to remove environmental and social barriers (WHO:'DISABILITY').

In United Kingdom for instance, apart from the preceding categories of disability, the Equality Act 2010 classifies people with progressive conditions as disabled. A progressive condition is a condition that gets worse over time. For example, people with HIV infection, cancer or multiple sclerosis automatically meet the disability definition under the Equality Act 2010.

Based on the definitions above, one can be excused by suggesting that a lot of Ghanaians, including our transcendent chiefs, are not aware of their own disability status.

Thus, it is possible that some people including our transcendent chiefs, who have made it a habit of discriminating against the known disabled people may be disabled themselves, and yet unbeknownst.

Well, if the preceding significations are anything to go by, then we can venture to state that each and every one is susceptible to a disability in a lifetime.

In this regard, our transcendent chiefs who are strictly adhering to some antiquated traditions and customs by discriminating against disabled people must engage in serious introspection, for they, (the discriminatory chiefs) may be harbouring disabilities, albeit they are unaware.

Paradoxically, we hear that in the time past, the severed 'heads' of subjects accompanied deceased chiefs to their resting place. Suffice it to stress that such quaint practice had been abolished.

So, to our discriminatory chiefs: 'why did you stop such idiosyncratic practice and still holding on to the view that it is abominable to come into a close contact with a disabled person?

In fact, the transcendent chiefs are violating Article 29 (4) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, which stresses: “disabled persons shall be protected against all exploitations, all regulations, all discriminations, abusive or degrading nature.”

It would, however, be appreciated if our chiefs can tell us: in the event that a chief happens to give birth to 'a disabled child, what would happen?

Would they carry out infanticide?
Again, what if a chief accidentally becomes disabled? Would he dethrone himself?

K. Badu, UK.
[email protected]
References:
www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/ -
www.who.int/icidh/ -
Trends in health conditions associated with disability: whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2011/9789240685215_eng.pdf

www.who.int/entity/mediacentre/factsheets/fs352/en/index.html -

Kwaku Badu
Kwaku Badu, © 2019

This author has authored 758 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwakuBadu

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