Volume 8 Issue 1 - January 01, 2011

Consultation on U.N.C.R.P.D., draft Mental Health Care Act and the draft new Disability Act held

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: National Alliance on Access to Justice for Persons Living with Mental Illness (N.A.A.J.M.I.) organised a 2 day consultation on U.N.C.R.P.D., the draft new Disability Act , Mental Health Care Act (M.H.C.A.), and rights for persons living with mental illness in Bengaluru on December 17 and 18. This meeting was attended by users and survivors, activists, academics, service providers, psychiatrists, care givers and N.G.O.s, among others.

The purpose of the consultation was to discuss the proposed new Mental Health Care Act in relation to U.N.C.R.P.D. and the draft new disability rights law. According to N.A.A.J.M.I., this meeting had more users and survivors than any other meeting in recent times. However, the absence of any officials from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, who were invited, was lamented.

N.A.A.J.M.I., which supports full legal capacity, expressed apprehensions about the proposed M.H.C.A., as it assumes incapacity. Even the ‘Advanced Directive’ which is a provision made for protecting consent in crisis situations, requires a certification of competence. The M.H.C.A. is contradicting itself in each and every provision of rights, and N.A.A.J.M.I. parodied the essence of M.H.C.A. thus: “Everybody is equal, except when not equal”.

However, psychiatrists present at the Consultation stated that a law was needed to protect medical practioners. This elicited strong responses and comments. After a long discussion on this, it was suggested that psychiatrists should get in touch with professional organisations to pursue legislation which will protect them. Most participants questioned why a separate law should be there for people with mental illness, when we do not have specific legislations on other medical conditions. They felt that their needs can be easily met by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (M.S.J.E.) and its new disability legislation.

Participants expressed anguish at the total lack of communication between M.S.J.E. and the Health Ministry. There has to be convergence between the different laws, the participants said. All agreed that differences must be resolved, and quickly, between the technocrats involved, the ministries and civil society. “N.A.A.J.M.I.’s position is for a comprehensive disability law, and the dismantling of existing barriers. If this does not happen, people living with mental illness will be forced once again to live in an environment of over-protectionism, force and exclusion from mainstream society,” said Bhargavi Davar, Co-Chair of N.A.A.J.M.I.

A demand was also raised for a separate Ministry of Disability Affairs and that the role of the Health Ministry should be limited to just the medical aspect of mental illness. The major breakthrough of this Consultation was a consensus on full legal capacity and a legal process by which the mental asylums can be changed from 'zoos' to 'sanctuaries'.

Click here to read full report of the Consultation (Word - 279 KB)

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