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14.05.2006 Crime & Punishment

Extend criminalisation of begging to all-Nana Oye

By GNA

Koforidua, May 13, GNA- A leading gender advocate, Nana Oye Lithur, says some provisions in the Disability Bill, which deals with criminalising begging by physically-challenged persons must be extended to include able-bodied persons who are also engaged in the business of alms solicitation.

She also advocated for the inclusion in the bill, a provision that would compel media agencies to include in their services, facilities that would enable the disabled such as the deaf have access to regular information so that they are not cut off from the expansive tele-communication services being offered.

Nana Lithur, who is the Africa Region Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), was leading a discussion on the Disability Bill organized by the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), an international human development agency at Koforidua on Friday for members of the Ghana Association of the Disabled.

The forum was to enable the over 70 participants representing the diverse blocs of disabled persons such as the blind, deaf, dumb and the mentally retarded made inputs that could be factored into the bill which now lay before Parliament before it is enacted into a law. Among others, the bill also seek to make it an offence to label or discriminate against persons with disabilities and seeks to enhance the educational, health, transportation and other problems that currently face the disabled.

Leading the discussion, Nana Lithur said, one grey area of the bill was the provision that sought to punish the disabled for begging after having received skills training from state agencies, but which does not seek to exact same for the able-bodied persons and people doing it for religious reasons.

She was also not happy with certain transitional provisions in the bill such as one that gives a ten-year reprieve to owners of public estate and buildings to make their buildings accessible to and available for use by a person with disability and proposed that this should be reduced to three years.

Nana Lithur said, despite the attempts being made, especially by the state to mainstream and integrate the disabled into active public life, there were still many problems such as cultural barriers that continue to hinder the disabled participation in all aspects of their community's life.

The New Juaben Municipal Chief Executive, Nana Adjei Boateng, who took part in the deliberations described the session as informative and pleaded for more such interaction between physical planners and leaders of disabled groups so that their needs could be addressed. He said based on concerns expressed by participants of the forum on the inadequacies of some road networks in the municipality, efforts would be made to alter some of the networks to make it passable for the disabled plying those routes.

Nana Adjei Boateng was however, emphatic that the assembly was presently ensuring that all its physical structures comply with existing policies on making public facilities accessible to the disabled. Some of the participants complained about the apathy of some Policemen to their plight and demanded a change in attitude, especially the unwarranted arrest and punitive charges often preferred against drivers of commercial vehicles in attempting to assist them when they encounter difficulties.

The deaf, in particular complained about limited educational opportunities to their members that presently terminate at the secondary level because there was no single tertiary institution that have facilities, nor offer placement for the deaf.

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