All should be equal before the law
We are all still shocked by the news that broke on Valentines day about the alleged murder of Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorius, the glory boy of Rolling Inspiration, we have followed him everywhere for many years. Many people looked up to, admired; and some even went as far as revered Oscar.
And now we are facing a dilemma we are so unprepared for. He was the ultimate picture of triumph over adversity and beating the odds.
While competing at both the Olympics, as well as the Paralympics he was proving to everyone out there that people with disabilities must be seen and treated as equal.
We can be measured on our capabilities despite our limitations. Here was the proof that it is possible for people to focus on the ability, not disability. He was the newsmaker in 2012 (along with Lance Armstrong) and we were glued to our TVs when he performed.
But when this tragic event occurred, because it was our beloved athlete, do we see signs of a different set of rules being applied? I hope not.
The very person that achieved the leveling of the playing field was suddenly the focus of disbelief rather than the mourning of the deceased.
Now, I do not want to imply that anyone should receive lesser treatment than what he or she deserves, but access to our judicial/criminal justice system has to be the same for everyone.
As much as I feel for the grieving Steenkamp family, does my heart also go out to Oscar and his family for what they have to go through. But I feel that he deserves the very same treatment as any other person who is a suspect in a murder case. As the criminal investigation into this alleged crime continues, some of the attention will not only be on him, but on all people with disabilities, whether we like it or not. We might not have been perceived as people deserving an equal opportunity to employment as everyone else before this happened, or deserving the same access to public transport or education. But now, because one of us has shown that we’re capable of succumbing to the same pressure as the rest of society, should we be judged the same way as everyone else.
As cruel and unfair as this might sound, we should be ready for it, because we are not immune to this reality. We have fought hard to ensure that we are included in all spheres of society, hence our subscription to the ‘nothing about us without us’ slogan. And it should not only pertain to us when we pursue our basic human rights. When we happen to be on the receiving end of justice, then even more should we expect equal treatment.
I also think about all people with disabilities that are incarcerated and detained in correctional services facilities and police facilities of the state that presents to them unsavoury situations that affects them in a negative way. Not only the correctional facilities but I refer to rehabilitation centres and institutions for people with mental health disorders. These should be accessible to all but somehow if you are disabled, then you experience more hardship than your able bodied counterpart.
Nowadays we experience more reports of horrific incidents of violence, many affecting women and children with disabilities. We should become the activists against these incidents and stand up against it. Too long have we remained silent. And if we want to be able to survive this onslaught, then we should speak up and report it. We should look long and hard to find suitable role models amongst us and look even longer and harder at being the suitable role model.
Let us not elevate our achievers to too high pedestals for fear of them not “coming down to earth “ again.
QASA supports a Gun Free society. There are too many quadriplegics and paraplegics from gunshot incidents, and now another tragic death.