Volume 8 Issue 3 - February 01, 2011

New Law must create humane recovery spaces, insists N.A.A.J.M.I.

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: After 12 years, the conditions of people living with mental illness in mental hospitals and institutions remain an urgent cause for human rights concern. The findings of a report commissioned by National Human Rights Commission (N.H.R.C.) in 1999 reveal that there are predominantly two types of hospitals. “The first type does not deserve to be called hospitals or mental health centres. They are ‘dumping grounds’ for families to abandon their mentally ill member, for either economic reasons or a lack of understanding and awareness of mental illness.”

The second type of hospitals, the report indicates, are those that provide basic living amenities. “Their role is predominantly custodial and they provide adequate food and shelter. Medical treatment is used to keep patients manageable and very little effort is made to preserve or enhance their daily living skills. These hospitals are violating the rights of the mentally ill persons to appropriate treatment and rehabilitation and a right to community and family life.”

Recently, in a conference organised by B.A.L.M. in Chennai, a noted psychiatrist observed that 4% of the Indian population is living inside one institution or another. The affidavits presented by various states before the Supreme Court show that in each state, at least 20-30 private asylums are coming up. Thus, there are some 200-250 lock up systems/institutions for people living with mental illness and other ‘high support’ disabilities.

In an open letter to the New Law Committee, various Members of N.A.A.J.M.I. highlighted the above facts. “How the Committee is going to address these centuries old and still continuing most inhuman conditions of P.L.M.I. incarcerated in institutions in the light of U.N.C.R.P.D.? How the Committee is going to ensure the basic human rights of P.L.M.I. in India?” they asked.

They demanded that the provisions on legal capacity recognizing the full capacity of all persons with all disabilities must be retained in full. And that the new disability rights law “should look away from the Medusa like gaze of Asylums” and instead, create “humane residential and recovery spaces.”

Click here to read N.A.A.J.M.I.'s letter to the New Law Committee.(Word - 20 KB)

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