BETHLEHEM - Women with disabilities face a dual discrimination in Palestinian society and their families and the government are failing to protect them, experts say.
Legal researcher for the rights group Al-Haq Issam Abdeen and Zaid Amro, an adviser to the PA Ministry of Social Affairs, appeared on Ma'an TV's talk show "You" to discuss issues facing women with disabilities.
People with disabilities are legally protected under the Disabilities Act, but Abdeen said the law is not often implemented. Under government quotas, five percent of staff employed by official institutions should be disabled, and three percent in the private sector.
But only three percent of the staff in official bodies are disabled and the private sector employs hardly any disabled people, Abdeen said, adding that it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs to ensure the Disabilities Act was applied.
Under Palestinian law of 1999, public institutes and transport must be accessible for disabled people, but after 13 years the Ministry of Local Governance and the Ministry of Transport have both failed to meet their legal obligations.
Amro, the ministry's adviser, agreed that while Palestinian laws are advanced in the protection of minority rights, there is an absence of control. He criticized the Ministry of Local Government for failing to provide financial welfare for people with disabilities.
He said the Ministry of Social Affairs plans to develop the ability of the government to provide services for women in the health and education sectors, adding that it has formed committees in 12 ministries to address the needs of people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, families have also failed to protect women with disabilities and society's mentality is at fault, Amro said. Women who give birth to children with disabilities are blamed and their husbands often abandon them and marry again.
"The real disability is in the community's mentality and not in the person with a disability," Amro said.
Al-Haq's Abdeen said women with disabilities have been subjected to forced hysterectomies, a practice that is illegal under Palestinian law. Disabled women are sometimes victims of sexual abuse, he added.
He noted that if the Palestinian Authority gains UN state membership, it will be required to report on its actions to meet the needs of its disabled citizens.