A United Nations rights official ended a groundbreaking visit to North Korea Monday and urged officials to try to combat the stigma and pejorative language surrounding the disabled.
Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, UN special rapporteur on the rights of people with disabilities, is the first-ever rights expert from the world body to be granted access to North Korea, which last December ratified an international convention on the rights of disabled people.
She shared the preliminary findings of her trip at a news conference in Pyongyang, including the way disabled people were perceived and treated.
“I recommend the government to engage in awareness-raising campaigns to ensure that the correct terminology is used to refer to persons with disabilities,” she said.
“I was also informed that families are reluctant to expose children and adults with disabilities in the community, and that women and girls with disabilities are in particular ashamed to participate in community activities due to the strong stigma attached to disability.” Devandas-Aguilar noted that efforts were mainly focused on deaf and blind people and said she interacted with only one wheelchair user.
She expressed regret that some meetings — including with the central court and the ministry of labour — did not take place and that she did not have the opportunity to visit a mental health facility.