The Ghana Blind Union (GBU) and the Association of Persons with Albinism have expressed worry over the long delay in the ratification of the Marrakesh treaty, thus calling on Government to, as a matter of importance, ratify the Treaty to facilitate access to published works for the blind and those with visual impairment.
The GBU and other stakeholders are championing the move for the ratification of the Treaty which was adopted by the Diplomatic Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco in June 2013.
The Marrakesh Treaty is meant to buttress the principle of non- discrimination , equal opportunity accessibility, full and effective participation and inclusion in society been proclaimed in the Universal Declaration Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.
The Treaty also emphasises the importance of copyright protection as an incentive and reward for literary and artistic creations and enhancing opportunities for everyone including persons with visual impairments or with other print disabilities.
In his remarks prior to the presentation of a petition to the Minister for Gender Children and Social Protection, in Accra on Tuesday Mr Yaw-Ofori Debrah, President of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations lamented how it has taken Ghana so long to ratify the treaty.
Mr Debrah submitted, “Honorable minister, the world has come out with this Marrakesh treaty calling on all governments as a matter of obligation to the blind and partially sighted to ratify the Marrakesh treaty now or never; we are saying that 20 countries across the world have now ratified and given effect to the Marrakesh treaty.”
He added, “We are sad that Ghana that always blazes the way for Africa allowed Mali to overtake us why? We are always interested in signing but not ratifying.
“This time around if Ghana fails to ratify it before the end of this month we will mobilized all the blind people in Ghana, we will do it simultaneously in all the regions to demonstrate our anger and frustration and we will blow it across African continent and world that our government is being insensitive, ”Mr Debra cautioned.
He admitted though that the government of Ghana has always been sensitive to disability issues, he could not fathom why the state has been reluctant in extending its sensitivity to the treaty which enables blind people to read and do their learning without depending on anybody.
He said most of them went through the hard way where they had to beg people to read for them as well as ask people to lead them to the libraries.
“We will not allow children coming after us to go through the same thing, so Marrakesh Treaty now, now and now thank you.”
Addressing the petitioners, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur warmly welcomed the petitioners and indicated government’s preparedness to ratify the treaty, saying, government is very sensitive to the need of persons with disability.
She informed the petitioners that cabinet has given approval to the Marrakesh Treaty in December, last year, however it has to go through some processes before the treaty gets the final ratification.”
She explained, “It has to go through certain processes including going to Parliament, going back to the office of the President and then being laid as an Instrument at the United Nations so we are going through those processes so government is saying that we have not forgotten about it and that we are going through this processes to ensure that we are able to deposit our instrument of ratification before the United Nations we will do that before December.”
She added “ if you recall we had our Social Protections Policy launch and even before the launch we had transcribed the policy into Braille and one of you skillfully read two or three paragraph at the launch. For us, this demonstrates mainstreaming disabilities issues and we have even started implementing Marrakesh treaty even before it is ratified.
On his part, the Executive Director of the GBU, Dr Peter Obeng, emphasised the need for government to ratify the treaty at the shortest possible time.
Dr Obeng, said the present copyright laws in the country restricted transformation of books into accessible format for blind persons therefore with the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, published works could be transformed even without prior permission of the publisher and made available to beneficiaries
The Treaty would allow cross-border sharing of published materials and pave way for blind persons to actively participate in the daily discourse of national and family life.
By Mohammed Suleman