Contribution to the Campaign to Support the CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Commitment and Forced Treatment: María Teresa Fernández Vázquez (Mexico)

an English summary of the Spanish original posted at https://absoluteprohibition.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/aporte-a-la-campana-por-la-prohibicion-absoluta-en-la-cdpd-de-los-tratamientos-forzosos-y-los-internamientos-involuntarios-maria-teresa-fernandez-mexico/ and at https://sodisperu.org/2016/03/14/aporte-a-la-campana-por-la-prohibicion-absoluta-en-la-cdpd-de-los-tratamientos-forzosos-y-los-internamientos-involuntarios/

In this text I try to argue my support for the Campaign from three different approaches. First, from a humanistic and social perspective that sees the human person as a unique and irreducible being, whose “inexhaustible potential of existence” [1] unfolds and may unfold in infinite ways and expressions, all of which are equally valuable and precious. For centuries, however, persons with disabilities in general, and persons with psychosocial disabilities in particular, have been put down and aside, and their expressions rarely acknowledged or approved by the vast majority. Either through ignorance, fear, negligence, lust for power and control, etc., both governments and societies have been ready to repress human conducts that do not fit the socially construed parameters already embedded in unquestioned norms, habits, symbols and cultural stereotypes. So that the status quo is maintained. We should consider any attempt at repression of human expression as a form of social and political oppression that should not be tolerated. Instead, societies should open themselves to human diversity, and build with all those who are different a permanent dialogue; create – hand in hand with them – new forms of social interaction and coexistence that enrich us all. To this I bet.

Secondly, I talk from my personal experience as the sister of a man who in his adolescence was diagnosed with epilepsy and later in his life became an alcoholic. My brother was confined to health centers, “farms” and psychiatric hospitals on the recommendation of his treating physicians. I can testify the increasing deterioration suffered by my brother after each placement, which culminated with his painful and early death. His commitments were absolutely intolerable and ominous: for him, for us as his family, and for us all. I deeply regret that we did not have access to the information, advice, proper support or the services that would have allowed my brother to live his life differently, according to his needs and potential; humanly, in short. The worst of it all is that today – forty years later – things have not changed much. There is still the same lack of such: information, advice, proper support and services. People with psychosocial disabilities keep on being ill-treated and committed, even against their will; even if there is proved evidence that such treatments do not work, but, on the contrary, they do profound and irreversible harm. Both: governments (through laws, policies and lack of political will), health professionals and society as a whole continue to condemn persons with psychosocial disabilities to oblivion and to death, and do it with absolute impunity. This too is unacceptable and has to be changed. The UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities tells us how.

The third perspective I support the Campaign from is that of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, being myself a person with a physical disability and thus actively involved in its process. Complying with the Convention means respecting the dignity and individual autonomy of all persons with disabilities, as well as respecting their right to equality and non discrimination, to personal liberty and security. As the CRPD Committee declares: “forced treatment by psychiatric and other health and medical professionals is a violation of the right to equal recognition before the law (art. 5) and an infringement of the rights to personal integrity (art. 17); freedom from torture (art. 15); and freedom from violence, exploitation and abuse (art. 16). This practice denies the legal capacity of a person to choose medical treatment and is therefore a violation of article 12 of the Convention” (Par. 42).[2] The Committee also states that the segregation of persons with disabilities in institutions violates a number of the rights guaranteed under the Convention (Par. 46).

It is absolutely unacceptable, under the Convention, not to respect the dignity of persons with psychosocial disabilities, or to subject them to scrutiny and rude, authoritative assessments. Nor is admissible for anyone to attribute himself the faculty to decide in his opinion what best suits them, or to hold them in places where they loose everything: their autonomy, their freedom, and even their dignity. Places where they remain – subjected and powerless – under the absolute control of other persons’ will – never their own – and their integrity is lacerated. As the CRPD Committee clearly declares, such practices are in frank violation of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and must be eradicated.

Instead, States Parties to the Convention – as well as the whole of societies – should fulfill their moral and legal obligation to eradicate all existing barriers and take all the necessary measures to guarantee that people with psychosocial disabilities enjoy each and every of their fundamental rights and are included as active and irreplaceable parts of society on an equal basis with others.

 

[1] Boff, Leonardo. Tiempo de la trascendencia, el ser humano como un proyecto infinito, Santander, Sal Terrae, Brasil, 2000.

[2] Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, General Comment No. 1 on Article 12 (2014).

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