NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 14 – Persons with mental disabilities have demanded that they be well represented in the constitution review process so that their issues are addressed.,
Kenya Society for the Mentally Handicapped (KSMH) Chief Executive Officer Edah Maina said on Wednesday that both the Wako and Bomas drafts had failed to provide for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
She told the media that it was undermining for the constitution to only recognise children whose growth and development was normal as is the case with the current constitution.
“Persons with mental disabilities have been denied their rights due to their inability to participate without support,” she said, adding: “the UN convention provides for supported decision making, which has not been recognised in Kenya, even by the constitution.”
Ms Maina said the expected constitutional review was the only chance for them to ensure that the issues of Persons with Mental Disability were entrenched.
“The current constitution also fails to recognise completely the adults whose normal life in society remains dependent on a variety of supports,” she said.
“Those who require support in exercising their legal capacities are not at all recognised by the constitution.”
She stated that although the law talked about the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, it contradicts itself by stating that ‘no person shall be deprived of his liberty, save as may be authorised by law, in any person who is or is reasonably suspected to be of unsound mind’.
“The question we are asking is what multi-disciplinary team determines that a person is of unsound mind?” the KSMH boss posed.
She expressed concern that parents with such children continued to pay the price for their predicaments, especially in the payment of extra school fees, medical services and social support.
“In spite of the free primary education programme, special schools for persons with mental disabilities continue to charge school fees for technical support services,” she said.
Senior Trustee Archbishop Ndingi Mwan’a Nzeki insisted that the law must be amended to ensure appropriate terms are used while making reference to such persons.
“The law uses archaic terms to describe the persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and these are no longer acceptable,” he observed.
“Words like idiot, imbecile are insults against humanity and should never be allowed. What we need is for the government and society to be kind, understanding and supportive to these people,” said the retired Archbishop.
He said that in the previous constitutional review processes, persons with mental disabilities were denied a hearing leading to major gaps in the law reviews.
There are more than four million persons living with mental disability in the country.