94 mental health patients in Gauteng: A lesson for State parties to the CRPD – A classic case of a poor deinstitutionalisation process

Author: Patricia Mwanyisa
Consultant – Human Rights and Access to Justice

As South Africa took time to celebrate its annual human rights day on March 21, this year (2017) the deaths of the 94 patients in Gauteng Province in a space of under a year should not be forgotten. The provincial government of Gauteng took the decision to remove persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities from government health institutions to reduce spending on their healthcare. The implementation process was poorly planned, rapidly executed and chaotic.  The move had fatal and disastrous consequences as it not only contravened national and international law, but also proved cruel and inhumane. The record shows 94 lives were lost, families have been severely traumatised and a healthcare support system regardless of whether it was the most ideal or not was shaken to its knees.

Apart from violating domestic law – the National Health Act 61 (2003) and the Mental Health Care Act 17 (2002)) – as a State party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), among other international instruments, there are several frameworks that were contravened by South Africa. This case provides an opportunity for some serious learning for South Africa (SA) as well as other African States. Learning from previous mistakes is vital for progress. Focus should be directed on how to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. It is probably more important to provide guidance to State parties or governments when they have made mistakes as opposed to the naming and shaming – particularly after the fact. To be productive, however requires the state or those in power to accept responsibility, acknowledge their mistakes and be receptive to the guidance. Ultimately, objectively and substantively unpacking the critical aspects or points at which things went wrong in the Gauteng saga from an international human rights perspective would be beneficial for the planning and implementation of these types of projects or programmes in the future.

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Tanzania’s proposed new constitution and the fate of social and economic rights

daniel_marariAuthor: Daniel Marari
LLM, International Human Rights Law, Lund University, Sweden

The United Republic of Tanzania is currently in the process of enacting a new constitution. In the text of the final draft of the proposed constitution (http://sheria.go.tz/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=44&Itemid=68) currently being deliberated by the constituent assembly, are interesting proposals to include important social and economic rights (ESR) as justiciable rights. But the specific content of rights and scope of obligations to be incorporated therein is a matter that is likely to be controversial. Indeed, judicial adjudication of ESR is a matter that is often still disputed or even entirely rejected in many national legal systems. Like many other domestic jurisdictions, Tanzania adopts the idealized distinction of human rights and the popular perception remains that, for lack of constitutional recognition, ESR are simply objectives and principles of state policy as opposed to legally enforceable rights. Nonetheless, socio-economic rights occupy a central place in the well-being of the human person and the international community has accordingly recognised a positive international legal framework imposing varied obligations to advance these rights.

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People with mental disabilities ALSO have the right to marry in Kenya

william_asekaAuthor: William Aseka
Human Rights Fellow at Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University

The Marriage Bill (now Act) 2014 has elicited different reactions from Kenyans. Some mostly women, have argued that the law will allow men to engage in polygamous marriages. Some have hailed the law as consolidating the different types of marriages into one piece of legislation. However, the people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities have completely been left out of this debate. The law clearly discriminates and expressly denies people with mental disorders from exercising their right to marry. Section 11(2)(b) of the Marriage Act 2014 provides:-

Consent is not freely given where the party who purports to give it is suffering from any mental disorder or mental disability whether permanent or temporary…

The Act further provides in section 73 that if one suffers from ‘recurrent bouts of insanity’ then the partner is allowed to have the marriage annulled. This essay seeks to argue that the Marriage Act 2014 not only violates Kenya’s obligation under international law but also violates the Constitution of Kenya 2010 Article 27(4), which proscribes discrimination based on disability.

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Realising the right to health for children with HIV/AIDS in Botswana: Policy based approach v rights based approach

Rashid DumbuyaAuthor: Rashid Dumbuya
LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Barrister and Solicitor, Sierra Leone

Botswana faces significant challenges on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the third Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS III) which took place in 2008, 17.6% of Batswana were living with HIV/AIDS. The survey revealed that about 18 000 children below the age of 19 were HIV positive.

Strong political commitment at national level has however resulted in impressive scale up in HIV treatment for children under the Prevention of Mother-to-child Transmission programme. Children are currently treated in about 33 centres issuing antiretroviral drugs. However, Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence provides a more in-depth pediatric content. There are also community-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Child Line, Mpule Kwelagobe Centre, SOS Children’s Home and Paolo Zanichelli Children’s Centre that are currently providing specialised services to vulnerable children. It is however important to point out that, in Botswana, the needs of HIV/AIDS affected children are not provided for in a comprehensive National legal framework. Care and treatment for children with HIV is currently addressed in overall HIV policy guidelines.

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Right to food: A ‘black and white’ choice?

bereket_kefyalewAuthor: Bereket Kefyalew
Freelancer based in Copenhagen, Denmark

The Ethiopian government often associates its developmental ideology with the East Asian model, while at the same time defining itself as a progressive democratic government. Paradoxically, the government defends itself from prodemocracy critics by arguing that food security comes first, then slowly comes democracy. Within this context, I analyse the right to food as a legal concept and how it can be used as a means to achieve food security in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has ratified and adopted the main instruments establishing the right to food such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Covenant on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women; and the African Charter on Peoples’ Rights. Ethiopia is also bound by international humanitarian law, having ratified the Geneva Convention of 1999 and the Additional Protocols thereto of 1977.

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