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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities considers the initial report of Ecuador

23 September 2014

23 September 2014

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today completed its consideration of the initial report of Ecuador on its implementation of the provisions of the Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Presenting the report, Marysol Ruilova, Deputy Minister of Public Health, said that treatment of persons with disabilities changed radically with the adoption of Ecuador’s new constitution in 2008. Since then, work had been done to provide persons with disabilities with equal opportunities and to improve their living conditions. The Organic Law on Disability was adopted in 2012, and other national plans and legislation further promoted and protected their rights. The National Council of Disability worked to formulate, monitor and evaluate public policies regarding disability and to strengthen participation of civil society.

Ramiro Rivadeneira Silva, Public Defender of Ecuador, took the floor to explain the mandate of his office, and welcome the harmonization of the constitution with the Convention, as well as measures that promoted positive discrimination of persons with disabilities under the National Plan of Wellbeing 2013 to 2017. Key areas to address included accessibility in general, and also relating to places of detention.

During the dialogue Experts welcomed the new constitution that integrated numerous Convention provisions, as well as increased budget lines to that end, but regretted that the medical model of disability was still prevalent in the country, as well as the use of pejorative language in some legislation. Experts recommended a transition to a social model. Questions were raised about access to education and health services for persons with disabilities, particularly in rural parts of the country, as well as promotion of inclusive education for children. Concerns were also raised about accessibility issues, reports of forced sterilization and corporal punishment of children with disabilities. The provision of social service and reduction of poverty among persons with disabilities and cases of multiple discrimination and equal access to justice for persons with disabilities were also discussed.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Ruilova said Ecuador was proud of the work it had done so far towards implementing the Convention but much more needed to be done, particularly to strengthen accountability and raise awareness on disability issues. While the disability model in Ecuador may appear to be medical, its spirit was the one of social inclusion.

Ramiro Rivadeneira Silva, Public Defender of Ecuador, in concluding remarks, said the culture of discrimination in Ecuador had to change, and to that end the awareness raising campaigns being organized were very important.

The delegation of Ecuador consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Justice, National Disability Council (CONADIS), Technical Secretariat of Disability (SETEDIS), Sub-Secretariat of Disability of the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, two civil society representatives and the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday 23 September at 3 p.m. when it will begin its consideration of the initial report of Denmark (CRPD/C/DNK/1).


The initial report of Ecuador (CRPD/C/ECU/1).

Presentation of the Report

MARYSOL RUILOVA, Deputy Minister of Public Health, explained that the disability issue in Ecuador was dealt with in two phases: through legislative actions before 2007, and through a radical transformation since 2007. In 1992 the Government adopted the Disability Law and set up the National Council of Disability (CONADIS), which was charged with the execution of relevant plans and programmes. Since 2007, when the Government of the Civic Revolution came into power, the approach to disability issues changed radically. The Government sought to improve the living conditions of persons with disabilities, and provide them with equal opportunities. The basis of that transformation was in the 2008 constitution, Article 47 of which guaranteed policies of disability prevention, and together with families and the society, provide for equal opportunities and social inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Article 47 recognized the rights of persons with disabilities in terms of specialized assistance, rehabilitation, housing, employment and education that allowed them to develop their potential and capabilities, psychological services, access to alternative means of communication and other needs. The constitution thus established a foundation for strategies that promoted independence and autonomy of persons with disabilities. In addition, in 2008 President Rafael Correa declared disability policies a Government priority. The Organic Law on Disability was introduced in 2012, said Ms. Ruilova.

The objectives of the National Plan of Wellbeing of 2013 to 2017 were equality, cohesion, inclusion, and social and territorial equity for persons with disabilities among others. The National Agenda for Equality and Disability 2013 to 2017 sought to create opportunities for persons with disabilities through the involvement of both the private and public sector. Within the new constitutional and legal context, CONADIS assumed new roles in the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of public policies regarding disability in all the levels of Government, and with strengthened participation of civil society.

RAMIRO RIVADENEIRA SILVA, Public Defender of Ecuador, explained that his Institution was an independent and autonomous entity responsible for the implementation of human rights in the country. He welcomed the fact that the Ecuadorian Constitution was harmonised with the Convention standards, as well as the adoption of laws that permitted the establishment of the National Council of Disability (CONADIS). He also welcomed the measures that promoted positive discrimination of persons with disabilities under the National Plan of Wellbeing 2013-2017. Nevertheless, Ecuador still needed to address certain problematic areas, such as accessibility in all areas, including places of detention.

Questions by Committee Experts

CARLOS RIOS ESPINOSA, Committee Expert Acting as Country Rapporteur for Ecuador, welcomed the measures that Ecuador took to meet to Convention standards, notably adoption of a constitution that integrated numerous Convention provisions, as well as increased budget lines to that end. However, he said he had great difficulties in finding alternative sources of information on disability in Ecuador. He noted that the medical model of disability was still prevalent in the country, and that Convention provisions were not fully transposed into Ecuador’s legislation.

Ecuador needed to apply the concept of reasonable accommodation, introduce appropriate anti-discrimination legislation, promote a positive image of persons with disabilities, guarantee their access to justice, and reform provision for legal capacity of persons with disabilities, said the Country Rapporteur. Other issues that required attention were the lack of education and access to health services in rural parts of the country.

An Expert criticized the lack of interaction with and input of civil society organizations in the drafting of the initial report, which prevented the Committee from gathering information on the actual implementation of the Convention. Ecuador still used the medical model of disability, which was regrettable, and the Civil Code still contained pejorative language to describe persons with disabilities. Real harmonization with the standards of the Convention was needed, said an Expert, who also indicated that there were cases of multiple discrimination, particularly among the indigenous peoples in Ecuador.

How many people with disabilities lived in Ecuador, asked an Expert, also asking for clarification on how ‘disability’ was defined and classified. According to state records, three per cent of the population had a disability, whereas according to the World Health Organization 15 per cent of the population had a disability, he said.

Children with disabilities were often subject to corporal punishment, said an Expert. What measures was the Government taking to prevent such occurrences? An Expert raised concern about the acts of incest against girls with disabilities, and the lack of information in that respect.

How had the anti-discrimination legislation to prevent hate crimes and related violence been applied and evaluated, following the reform of the Criminal Code in 2009?

Responses from the Delegation

Regarding the participation of civil society in the drafting of the report, a delegate from the Ecuadorian civil society said they were consulted and that they participated in the drafting of the initial report. She explained that were five federations in Ecuador representing all types of disabilities. Until 1992 there was only one representative of persons with disabilities, whereas at the moment civil sector representation was strong and supported by appropriate budget. In 2001 persons with disabilities gained five places on the National Council for Disabilities. In 2007, a person with disabilities became Vice President of the Republic. In addition, every year the Council set aside a distinct line of budget for persons with disabilities. Investments were made in infrastructure, provision of technical assistance, medical and other services. Civil societies of persons with disabilities were involved in the formulation of the national agenda for equality.
In May 2013 the Technical Secretariat for Disability was established, which worked on several projects in the sector of education, culture and health, involving a great number of public and private participants.

In Ecuador public policies were discussed with non-governmental organizations, said another delegate, who explained that the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion focused on strengthening capacities of organizations of persons with disabilities, both those that worked with children and adults. The Ministry signed an annual convention for the provision of services, and set aside 33 per cent of its budget to that end. The projects initially focused strictly on the provision of care, but recently a programme was developed which focused on personal development of persons with disabilities and their families.

Alongside the provision of services, the Government also worked with federations of persons with disabilities and signed five conventions with them in order to guarantee funds for their projects. Responding to the Committee’s observation that the approach towards civil society was paternalistic, a delegate explained that the signing of conventions with federations in fact empowered them and brought more order in their work. In such a way the State took responsibility for its citizens.

A civil society representative said that the Ecuadorian sign language was recognized by the Constitution, and taught throughout the five disability federations.

Regarding the definition of disability in Ecuador, a delegate explained the country was still transitioning towards Convention standards but the Ministry of Health focused not only on the medical dimension, but also on socio-economic aspect. It was developing a new assessment instrument which would provide a complete record of persons with disabilities, corresponding to reality in Ecuador. Since 30 per cent of disability cases were of genetic origin, the Government was making major efforts to work with geneticists for prevention purposes, and many strategies were designed to identify pathologies. In addition, the Ministry of Health was tracking the health of individuals to identify and improve rehabilitation services, particularly in rural areas. A large proportion of patients with disabilities were involved in policy designs.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution recognized the jurisdiction of indigenous communities and their customary law, Ecuador’s laws did not jeopardize the human rights of its citizens. Children and adolescents with disabilities received priority attention and care by the State. Corporal punishment was prohibited by law. It was difficult to assess its implementation of the new criminal code that dealt with hate crimes and discrimination, due to its recent entry into force, said a delegate.

A national plan to prevent gender violence and violence against children with disabilities was recently enacted. Services were provided by 14 protection centres and five shelters located in strategic parts of the country. Physical and psychological violence against women and children was a criminal act. The national plan also replaced some of the inappropriate disability language used in the Civil and Criminal Codes.

Questions by Experts

Experts returned to concerns about poor coordination between State institutions and civil society, observing that there was scant representation of civil society in the delegation, and that no alternative sources of information were available.

An Expert asked for an elaboration of the exact role of the Public Defender in Ecuador, and of the Ombudsman in cases of human rights violations of persons with disabilities. How were complaints of human rights violations registered, and what measures were taken against the perpetrators?

Concern was raised about the very high number of institutions for persons with disabilities, and the delegation was asked about the ways in which the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture dealt with institutional abuse cases.

Was there was a plan to modify the organic law provision which allowed abortion procedures to be carried out on a person with disabilities with the consent of their guardian? He also enquired about potential changes in the naturalization law for persons with disabilities.

Sterilization, even with the consent of a guardian, was contrary to the Convention, explained a delegate, as was the payment of disability assistance to a guardian rather than the person herself. Another issue that was not in line with the Convention was genetic counselling policies, which risked communicating the message that it was better not to have been born at all than to have been born with a disability.

Experts also raised concerns that despite legal prohibition of forced sterilization it still took place. Abuses were often carried out the family of girls and women with disabilities. The full and informed consent of persons with disabilities had to be guaranteed, rather than just the consent of the guardian.

Experts also asked questions about housing for persons with disabilities in different parts of the country; the lack of access to justice for indigenous women, persons of African descent, migrants and refugees; training for the judiciary on the rights of persons with disabilities; and the rights of patients with disabilities.

Responses by the Delegation

MARYSOL RUILOVA, Deputy Minister of Public Health, said the necessary changes would not happen overnight, and would be a result of a deep seated change. A delegate from the National Council of Disability said that the Council had been working on accessibility issues since 1995, such as the introduction of trolley buses, a pioneering initiative in the area of transport in Ecuador, through a joint effort with civil society. The Government also made accessibility standards a compulsory part of public tenders. To that end, a committee was established to ensure the implementation of accessibility measures. Elimination of architectural barriers would be implemented in 221 municipalities in the country, and 130 municipalities have already started the process.

By the end of 2014 all relevant accessibility regulations would become mandatory, and the Government was working with local governments to complete the process. If they failed to comply with those standards, the Government would cut off support to them. The Government would also analyse accessibility standards in 149 schools and conduct a study on accessibility in higher education. All of academia was involved in the area of universal accessibility. As for accessibility in communication, the Ecuadorian sign language was recognized in the country, and sign language courses were delivered in specific areas.

Responding to concerns about the voucher system for persons with disabilities, known as the ‘Joaquin Gallegos Lara benefit’, a delegate explained that the ability to live independently was a key criterion in deciding the provision of services. Voucher benefits were first distributed to those with mental and psychosocial disabilities, victims of accidents, and people with HIV. Those with severe disabilities and in poverty were given priority, while others could receive other kinds of specialized benefits.

A social registry of persons with disabilities had been created and home visits ensured proper assessment of individual care needs. Home visits were the key element of the Ecuadorian care model. The Joaquin Gallegos Lara benefit was guided by the principle of joint responsibility of the State and persons with disabilities and their families, and the Government wished the benefit to become more stable in order to ensure social and economic mobility of persons with disabilities. The Joaquin Gallegos Lara benefit was important in demonstrating how to empower the families of persons with disabilities to become care providers. Since extended family was an important social category in Latin America, policies were designed in way that corresponded to the social reality.

Since 2009 four conventions were signed regarding accommodation for persons with disabilities. Additional funds were also provided to those who wanted to make their homes more accessible. Between 2009 and 2013, 11,125 new houses were built. Some 6,000 housing units were expected to be constructed in the next phase, and would be intended for those in poverty. The Government was working with the Urban Development and Housing Ministry to ensure that the full range of needs was met.

Responding to questions on gender issues, a delegate said that women with disabilities in Ecuador were represented by four civil society organizations. There was also the Consultative Council for children and adolescents. As for inclusion in workplace, full equality had not yet been achieved for women, but significant progress had been made. Since May 2013, 24,000 women were included in the labour market, and efforts were made to guarantee them equal pay in spite of the culture of male domination. In addition, some 10,000 women received the Joaquin Gallegos Lara benefit.

In 2014 a campaign was launched towards eradication of violence in schools. When a complaint was made against a teacher, members of family would be included in investigation. The teacher could be dismissed or suspended until the case was resolved. The penalty for sexual violence crimes was imprisonment of up to 25 years. In addition, an inter-sectoral strategy sought to raise awareness and prevention of teenage pregnancy, as well as to bring teenagers back to school to complete their studies.

The State had an obligation to include indigenous peoples in governmental and municipal structures to ensure their linguistic and cultural representation. An increase in enrolment in rural schools was observed. In 2006 school attendance was 87.9 per cent, and in 2012 it amounted to 94 per cent. In 2014 the Ministry of Education signed a number of cooperation agreements with civil society organizations to offer quality education to those with severe disabilities. Training sessions were organized for teachers and sign interpreters, and pedagogical models were set up in hospital teaching rooms in several hospitals.

Concerning the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, a delegate explained that its ratification was still in parliamentary procedure.

Regarding the issue of access to justice and legal representation of persons with disabilities, from June 2013 an awareness campaign was organized with judicial officials to promote the principle of universal access to justice. Several groups of approximately 2,000 civil servants each took part in training sessions and the awareness campaign, amounting to more than 11,000 servants in total. The National Council for Disability also undertook inspection of the accessibility of judicial premises, as well as the accessibility of relevant websites. Continuous training would be provided in the justice system.

There had been 27 denouncements of hate crimes and six denouncements of discrimination since August 2014 confirmed a delegate. He also explained that the role of the Office of the Public Defender was to provide guarantees in emergency cases and impose compulsory measures when labour rights were violated. Since there were no specialized lawyers in the area of disability, a special prosecution office within CONADIS was created. Since its creation, the office had dealt with 12,000 offences regarding the human rights of persons with disabilities.

Questions by Experts

Access to services, such as access to education from a cultural and ethnic perspective, and provision of education in indigenous languages to persons with disabilities, as well as access to sexual and reproductive health services, was raised by an Expert who asked for more information on their provision.

Ecuador’s commitment to the Post-2015 Development Agenda from the disability perspective was enquired about by an Expert who also asked about the participation of persons with disabilities in the monitoring of Ecuador’s international cooperation projects.

How many persons with disabilities were currently enrolled in higher education, and how many had access to health care in rural areas, the delegation was asked. It was also asked to elaborate on the social housing prototype adopted by the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing.

An Expert enquired about disability training provided to Information Technology technicians and web designers, social protection and health care staff, as well as about sanctions for those who failed to implement accessibility standards.

The question about reports of incest in families with children with disabilities was returned to by an Expert who also asked to what extent CONADIS was working on gender equality, and whether women with disabilities were involved in civil society at large.

Questions were raised about the number of children in inclusive education as opposed to special education, as well as about the numbers of teachers with disabilities. Experts enquired about the success of training centres in employing persons with disabilities, and specific employment figures for persons with disabilities.

Ecuador’s disability policies was still based on the medical model, said an Expert, suggesting that a social and legal approach be adopted. Another Expert observed that the funding for mental care services was very small, as only 1.2 per cent of the budget of the Ministry of Health was invested in the care of persons with mental health problems, and only 5.9 per cent was allocated for psychiatric hospitals.

How did Ecuador ensure the prevention of cruel and inhuman treatment of persons with disabilities? What happened with the due process procedure in cases when the perpetrator was a person who did not understand his/her acts?

Responses by the Delegation

The Ecuadorian criminal code sanctioned the crime of rape with a prison sentence of up to 18 years, said a delegate, adding that health professionals were obliged to denounce such a crime. Those measures were backed up by the strengthening of the prosecution service, and through special measures for persons with disabilities.

The absence of criminal responsibility was removed when persons were unaware of the unlawful nature of their actions, but incarceration measures could be taken for security purposes. Social and psychological services would provide the necessary information to determine the length of incarceration. The Ministry of Justice was also developing a torture prevention mechanism, with a special chapter on persons with disabilities and their needs.

Responding to Experts’ concerns that investment in mental health services was low, a delegate listed a range of services and facilities that were available, noting that 80 per cent of health problems were treated in hospitals, while other cases would be treated specialized hospitals. New health care facilities were opened, among them those treating mental illnesses. In July 2014 a mental health care model was launched in cooperation with civil society in order to draw an inter-sectoral national mental health plan, with provisions for increased funding.

Ecuador was moving from special towards inclusive education, and was identifying students with disabilities and their needs in order to move them to inclusive schools. More than 17,000 students with disabilities now attended mainstream schools. The Government was also adapting the national curriculum to make it more inclusive.

Regarding accessibility, a delegate said that a country-wide federation was in charge of the provision of materials in accessible communication formats. However, there were no sanctions for the failure to comply with accessibility standards. The country was in the process of ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty, and was converting books into Braille.

In the labour market there were 78,077 people with disabilities, which meant that there were approximately 10,000 people with disabilities who had not yet found employment. In addition to relevant national employment policies, the private sector also offered help in that area, such as training for financial planning. Furthermore, the country participated in global discussions of micro-finance schemes, and cooperated with different countries in the region regarding that matter.

The 2008 constitution promoted a legal framework that included and promoted the rights of all citizens, including those with disabilities, as well as the principle of inter-sectoral and citizen participation in the creation of policies. A holistic approach was taken towards equality matters, emphasized a delegate.

An independent participant from the Ecuadorian Federation of Blind People said that since 2006 persons with disabilities benefited from different projects implemented in cooperation with the Government, which increased their participation in supervising the implementation of laws. They also received support from the Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion. Progress was made in the recognition of sign language and the passing of regulations on accessible communication formats. Participation was also extended to encompass a larger proportion of persons with disabilities, such as the National Federation of Parents of Children with Disabilities.

Concluding Remarks

MARYSOL RUILOVA, Deputy Minister of Public Health, thanked the Committee for its contributions, constructive criticism and feedback. Ecuador was a country of solidarity and inclusion and was proud of the work it had done so far towards implementing the Convention. However, much more needed to be done, particularly to strengthen accountability and raise awareness on disability issues through various inter-sectoral projects. While the disability model in Ecuador may appear to be medical, its spirit was the one of social inclusion, she stressed.

RAMIRO RIVADENEIRA SILVA, Public Defender of Ecuador, said that in 2015 a new draft bill would be adopted that would broaden provisions to promote and protect the human rights of persons with disabilities. The culture of discrimination in Ecuador had to change, and to that end the awareness raising campaigns being organized were very important. Ecuador was undergoing significant changes in order to protect the rights of all its citizens.


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