In 1992, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 47/3 established Dec. 3 as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in a bid to promote respect for people with disabilities and the fulfillment of their rights, dignity, comfort and well-being.
This year’s commemoration carries the theme “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world”. The theme is certainly relevant to the current situation, in which the pandemic is far from over and hopes for economy recovery are facing a daunting challenge with the arrival of the Omicron variant. Some experts have even warned that new variants of the novel coronavirus will continue to emerge.
The pandemic has made people with disabilities more vulnerable, especially because the health crisis has limited their access to social protection schemes and health services because of mobility restrictions and policies that do not favor them.
This year’s theme has three keywords that need to be highlighted: inclusive, accessible and sustainable. One aspect that should also guide policy making related to the fulfillment of disability rights is the intersectionality approach or perspective.
This intersectional approach or perspective is a real necessity when marginalized groups, such as women, migrant workers and indigenous communities also have disabilities, which often plunge them into various forms and layered discrimination.
Using this intersectionality approach, Migrant CARE together with OHANA, an organization advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities, conducted a policy review in the first half of 2021 on migrant workers who were experiencing disabilities and were yet to benefit from an inclusive government policy response.
In terms of policy framework, Indonesia has already a set of instruments at both the international and national levels that seek to guarantee respect for and the protection and fulfillment of the rights of migrant workers and the rights of people with disabilities. Indonesia is a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers. At the national level, Indonesia has enacted Law No. 8/2016 on people with disabilities and Law No. 18/2017 on the protection of Indonesian migrant workers.
However, thus far, the commitment to protecting the rights of migrant workers and persons with disabilities still leaves much to be desired, especially in terms of the implementation of intersectional policies – for example, linking the fulfillment of the rights of migrant workers in the perspective of rights of persons with disabilities, or the fulfillment of the rights of persons with disabilities in the perspective of the rights of migrant workers.
Some of the key problems include the fact that many regulations maintain the requirement of “physical and mental health” for jobs, educational opportunities and public activities, which clearly disqualifies people with disabilities. Such people are still stigmatized as an unproductive group.
In the context of labor migration, it has also been found that prospective workers with disabilities do not have a level playing field when it comes to access to job opportunities abroad. Whereas in various countries, especially those that have fully implemented the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, equal opportunities are available and some have even provided special affirmations for persons with disabilities to enable them to work.
On the other hand, in the context of the protection of Indonesian migrant workers, policies for the fulfillment of the rights of migrant workers in the context of fulfilling disability rights have not been identified. This is evident in the collection of data on the mobility of migrant workers, which does not include data variables for migrant workers with disabilities or those who have newly become persons with disabilities.
This omission certainly results in policies that fail to fulfill the rights of migrant workers with disabilities. An example of this is Manpower Ministerial Regulation No. 18/2018 on social security for Indonesian migrant workers, which maintains the term “defect” (kecacatan), rather than disability. As a consequence, the insurance guarantee scheme for migrant workers who experience work accidents and acquire a disability lacks the disability rights perspective.
These findings show that many government policies do not support the fulfillment of the rights of migrant workers or the rights of persons with disabilities, whereas they should be the instruments for the fulfillment of these rights. This would have not happened had the policies followed research and perspectives that favor marginalized groups.
To ensure the fulfillment of the rights of migrant workers and rights of persons with disabilities, inclusive regulations and policies are undoubtedly needed. But their formulation should be based on research work in knowledge ecosystems and collaboration with all stakeholders, and it should accommodate the voices and aspirations of migrant workers and persons with disabilities.
Writer: Wahyu Susilo, Executive Director of Migrant CARE
This entry was published on Jakarta Post on December 3, 2021.