Hunger strikes, made famous by India's preeminent political and spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi, are a time-honored way to make a statement in the name of social justice. This Wednesday in New Delhi, Gandhi's example will live on: a group of disabled citizens will start an indefinite hunger strike to demand disability rights. Of the approximately 21 million people in India suffering from one or more forms of disability, this small group has decided to speak up.
According to the Hindustan Times, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, under pressure from social justice groups, created a committee to draft new legislation to reflect the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities replacing the 1995 Disability Act.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international treaty that identifies the rights of persons with disabilities as well as the obligation of the States to promote, protect and ensure these rights.
In India, the disabled population needs government support. According to the United Nations, women and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse. A survey conducted in 2004 in Orissa, India, found that almost all the women and girls surveyed with disabilities were beaten at home; a quarter of women with intellectual disabilities had been raped; and 6 percent had been subjected to forced sterilization.
A study done by India’s National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (reported by the U.N.) reveals that despite the People With Disabilities Act, which reserves 3 percent of government jobs for people with disabilities, only about 100,000 out of the entire disabled population have succeeded in becoming employed in industry.
The first meeting by the committee to draft new legislation will take place on Thursday, June 10.