Voting Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Equal Opportunities
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) - Currently, about 1 billion people with disabilities live in the world. There are more than 760 thousand of them in Uzbekistan. The electoral legislation and practice for the implementation of the rights of people with disabilities in different countries have their own characteristics.
The analysis shows that in all countries of the world there is a tendency to improve electoral legislation. The principles of universal and equal suffrage contained in paragraph 7.3 of the 1990 Copenhagen Document of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, provide appropriate conditions for persons with disabilities to exercise their right to vote.
In particular, this obligation is reflected in article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which provides for the provision of effective suffrage for persons with disabilities.
For example, ahead of the 2008 parliamentary elections in Spain, electoral legislation was amended to guarantee people with disabilities the opportunity to vote and ensure their anonymity.
In Italy, special voting booths have been equipped for voters with disabilities. Voters who could not come to the polling station personally due to health or physical disabilities are given the opportunity to vote at home.
In Latvia, the legislation also permits the organization and conduct of voting outside the polling station, that is, at home, for voters with disabilities.
After the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by Uzbekistan in 2021, creating the most comfortable conditions for vulnerable citizens has become a top priority.
In accordance with article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the state builds its activities on the principles of social justice and legality in the interests of the well-being of individuals and society. It is the social security of citizens that is one of the main criteria for the civilization of the state.
One of the priority directions of the state policy of Uzbekistan in the field of protection of persons with disabilities is to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal opportunities with other citizens in the implementation of civil, political, economic, and other rights and freedoms provided for by the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, international law, and international treaties of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the political, socio-economic and cultural spheres of society is based on the principle of non-discrimination of a person, regardless of any circumstances, including in connection with disability. The principle of non-discrimination and equality, rights and freedoms of citizens is enshrined in Art. 18 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which reads: “All citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan have the same rights and freedoms and are equal before the law without distinction of sex, race, nationality, language, religion, social origin, beliefs, personal and social status.
To this end, in 2020, the Law “On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” was adopted, which regulates a set of both socially significant measures to support citizens with special needs and guarantees their full, non-discriminatory participation in the political life of the country.
The Law "On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities" outlined the basic principles of ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities, including the principles of prohibition and non-discrimination on the basis of disability, the main directions of state policy in the field of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The adoption of this law made it possible to radically change the approaches to solving problems related to disability.
According to the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, incapacitated persons recognized only by the court do not have the right to vote in elections. In any other cases, direct or indirect restriction of the electoral rights of citizens is not allowed.
As the results of the analysis of the legislation of the UN member states show, 6 states restrict the electoral right for persons with mental disabilities. In these states, the restriction on the right to vote is applied without any distinction. In 56 states, the prohibition of the exercise of the right to vote by persons with intellectual disabilities is established by national courts.
In 9 states, suffrage is restricted on the basis of mental health provisions, and the prohibition on exercising this right extends to persons placed in psychiatric institutions.
Comparative analysis shows that, unlike other countries, Articles 31, 49 and 50 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan contain clear legal norms for voters with disabilities, which provide for the creation of conditions for the effective exercise of the right to vote by persons with disabilities.
For example, according to article 31 of the Electoral Code, ballots can be prepared in Braille. According to article 50, secret ballot booths specially equipped for persons with disabilities must be bright and spacious, have separate entrances and exits, and also have sloping sidewalks for persons with disabilities.
In accordance with Article 56 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, if it is impossible for a part of voters to come to the polling station for health reasons or for other reasons, the relevant precinct election commission organizes voting at their request at the request of these voters.
In order to fully realize the rights of persons with disabilities in Uzbekistan, work is underway to create a convenient infrastructure, including within the framework of the electoral process.
During the 2019 elections to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis, 4,158 persons with disabilities were involved in election commissions of various levels. This year, according to the CEC, persons with disabilities make up 5% of DEC members.
In May 2021, a memorandum of cooperation was signed between the CEC and the Society of Disabled People, the Society of the Blind, the Society of the Deaf and the Association of Disabled People of Uzbekistan.
Braille stencils have been issued to meet the needs of the visually impaired voters. For deaf and hard of hearing voters, sign language interpreters may be invited to polling stations on election day if there are applications.
Braille ballot papers printed. Pre-election TV programs are broadcast with sign language translation and subtitles, and for the blind, materials are published in special magazines using Braille.
All polling stations provide for the establishment of ramps for persons with disabilities.
These measures are aimed at the free expression of the will of persons with disabilities.
Head of the Department of Analysis and Research in the Field of Human Rights of the National Center of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Human Rights