EC asks parties to avoid derogatory references on PwDs

New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) on Thursday asked political parties and their representatives not to use “derogatory or insulting references” on persons with disabilities (PwDs) during any public statement or political campaign.
Issuing a set of guidelines to nudge political parties to move towards respectful discourse for PwDs, the poll panel has urged the parties and their candidates to abide by the guidelines in letter and spirit as they are an important stakeholder in the electoral process.
“The Commission has been made aware of use of derogatory or offensive language in the political discourse about PwDs. Usage of such semantics in speech/ campaign by members of any political parties or their candidates can be interpreted as an affront to the PwDs,” it said.
Citing the common examples of ableist language are words like dumb (gunga), retarded (pagal, sirphira), blind (andha, kana), deaf (behra), lame (langda, lula, apahij), etc., the poll panel said. “It is necessary to avoid usage of such derogatory language. PwDs have to be accorded justice and respect in political discourse/campaign,” it added.
“Political parties and their representatives should not use disability/ PwDs or terms referring to disability/ PwDs in the context of human incapacity during any public speech, in their writings/articles, or political campaign.
“They should strictly avoid comments related to disabilities/PwDs that may be offensive or perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices,” read the guidelines shared by the EC.
It further said, “Any usage of such language, terminology, context, mockery, derogatory references or insult to PwDs as mentioned in points (i), (ii) and (iii) may attract provisions of Section 92 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.”
All campaign materials, including speeches, social media posts, advertisements, and press releases, must undergo an internal review process within the political party to identify and rectify any instances of ableist language, offensive or discriminatory towards individuals/PwDs, it added.
In its guidelines, the poll panel further said, “All political parties shall use rights-based terminologies as mentioned in CRPD (Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and not incline towards any other terminology. They may make their website and social media content digitally accessible to allow accessible interaction with PwDs.”
All political parties may provide a training module on disability for party workers at all levels of political process and shall appoint nodal authority to hear complaints from PwDs pertaining to usage of ableist language.

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