Parliament approves ‘Agnes’ Law’ to protect disabled people
Landmark disability legislation was unanimously passed by the Gibraltar Parliament yesterday.
The Disability Act 2017 ensures that the fundamental rights of disabled people are promoted and protected by laws that also underscore respect for their dignity.
“This is another milestone in terms of equality,” said Equality Minister Samantha Sacremento, who presented the legislation.
The Act is also referred to as ‘Agnes’ Law’ in memory of the late Agnes Valarino, a former chairwoman of the Gibraltar Disability Society who had championed disability rights.
In praising Mrs Valarino and the work of campaigners, Ms Sacramento reflected too on her own role in bringing this legislation to Parliament, a journey that transcended her time in office and started when she was a practising barrister.
She said the government was committed to creating “a modern, inclusive society” and that this required “individual and collective” commitments from everyone in the community.
“This is about embracing the principle and changing hearts and minds,” she said.
The legislation was welcomed by Independent MP Lawrence Llamas, who said it would ensure that disabled people could enjoy the same rights as any other person in the community.
Mr Llamas nonetheless raised a number of areas where he felt the legislation could go further.
Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon said the legislation recognised the difficulties faced by some of the most vulnerable people in this community, but also what they can contribute to society.
She said legislation of this sort ensured that Parliament was helping to advance the rights of minority groups, although she also raised a number of observations about the Bill.
Opposition MP Roy Clinton – speaking before he had formally become the Leader of the Opposition – also welcomed the legislation and said Parliament should have acted sooner to ensure the protection of disabled rights.
In common with the other opposition MPs, he raised some concerns about areas of the Bill which could be strengthened.
The legislation is based on the UN convention on equal rights for disabled people, but Mr Clinton said some elements of that international agreement were missing.
However Ms Sacramento replied that the legislation was not a wholesale transposition of the convention, not least because many aspects of it already existed in earlier legislation.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo described the legislation as “pioneering” for the advancement of the equality rights in Gibraltar.