Our Readers' Opinions
February 19, 2013

We have to do more to assist the disabled

Tue Feb 19, 2013

Editor: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines became the 96th ratifier of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on October 29, 2010. The nation also took a further step in ratifying the CRPD Optional Protocol, which gives citizens additional avenues for pursuing justice if all other legal resources fail to act within the country.{{more}}

The CRPD is the first international, legally binding human rights treaty targeted at protecting the human rights of people with disabilities. A few examples of the human rights that the CRPD protects include, but are not limited to: (i) The right to be protected from abuse, violence, and torture (ii) The right to live in the community, with one’s family, without being institutionalized against one’s will (iii) The right to have access to education, transportation, and other public services (iv) The right to access information and communication, including via sign language or Braille (v) The right to employment and a decent standard of living (vi) The right to access social justice.

Ratifying a treaty commits a country to implementing it. This may mean the country needs to modify existing laws to be more consistent with the treaty.

From among the 147 signatories of the CRPD, 96 have taken the next step by ratifying the treaty. Of these, 59 also have ratified the Optional Protocol, which gives people with disabilities in ratifying countries an additional avenue for pursuing justice if all other standard methods for pursuing justice within their country should fail.

To date, no effort has been made to implement the convention and no mention of it has been made in parliament or the media. Our mental health facilities continue to lock up over 100 Vincentian youths. Hundreds more are forced to take toxic antipsychotic medications, which cause nerve damage and liver disease among other things, and this for “crimes” as minor as smoking weed.

I am calling on the Government of St Vincent to take immediate steps to implement the Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities, as it has committed itself to do, and to make the necessary changes to the laws of the land.

In addition I would like to see them do the following: (i) Advise the Mental Health authorities, the Courts and the Police of the Ratification of the CRPD and ensure that they are brought fully up to date with the rights of Disabled Persons. (ii) Advise the patients of the Mental Health Centre of their rights in simple English and provide legal counsel for those whose rights have been abused. (iii) Stop the forced injections of antipsychotic drugs.

The Government cannot afford to be seen as blind to the needs of its citizens. Please print this letter for the sake of all disabled persons.

Robert A Haydock