EC asks parties not to use derogatory words for persons with disability

Issues a set of guidelines for politicians and political parties to promote inclusivity
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 21 December 2023, 09:53 IST
Last Updated : 21 December 2023, 09:53 IST

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New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) on Thursday asked the politicians and the political parties to avoid using derogatory and insulting words about disability or people with disability as well as to refrain from referring to disability in the context of human incapacity.

The EC for the first time issued a set of guidelines for politicians and political parties to promote inclusivity and respect for people with disability in the political discourse.

The commission issued the 11-point guidelines after being recently made aware of the use of derogatory or offensive language in the political discourse about persons with disabilities or the PwDs. “Usage of such semantics in speech or campaign by members of any political parties or their candidates can be interpreted as an affront to the PwDs,” the EC stated on Thursday, noting some of the examples of “ableist language” like dumb, retarded, blind, deaf and lame. “It is necessary to avoid (the) usage of such derogatory language. (The) PwDs have to be accorded justice and respect in political/campaigns.”

The commission warned that any usage of such language, terminology, context, mockery, derogatory references or insult to the PwDs by politicians or political parties might attract provisions of Section 92 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.

The Right for Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 provides for the protection of rights of the PWDs. Section 7 of the Act provides for protection from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation while Section 92 lists out punishment for violation.

The political parties and their representatives should not use derogatory or insulting references on disability or PwDs during any public statement or speech, in their writings or articles or outreach material or political campaign, according to the new guideline issued by the commission.

It also asked the political parties and their representatives not to use disability or the PwDs or terms referring to disability or the PwDs in the context of human incapacity during any public speech, in their writings/articles or political campaigns.

‘Avoid comments’

“(The) Political parties and their representatives should strictly avoid comments related to disabilities/PwDs that may be offensive or perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices,” added the EC guideline.

The EC asked all political parties to declare on their websites that they would use disability and gender-sensitive languages and etiquette as well as respect inherent human equality, equity, dignity and autonomy. All political parties should also make their website and social media content digitally accessible to allow accessible interaction with persons with disabilities.

“Political parties may endeavour to include more PwDs at levels such as members and party workers to shed the attitudinal barrier of the party and public and provide equal opportunities,” the commission stated in the new guideline.

The EC stated that it had joined the civil society and other stakeholders to motivate and facilitate the participation of the PwDs to achieve its overall objective of accessible and inclusive elections. “The objective will fully be met when political parties and candidates also join the cause and treat all PwDs with respect and dignity,” added the poll panel, led by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and the two Election Commissioners Anup Pandey and Arun Goel. “It should be our combined duty and endeavour to treat all with respect and create a society that does not discriminate based on disability.”

Published 21 December 2023, 09:53 IST

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