‘The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, and political belief, economic or social condition.’ (Preamble to the constitution of the World Health Organization) The men, women, and children with mental disabilities may well be the most vulnerable persons in society, deeply misunderstood and stigmatized, feared even, by many of their fellow citizens, and they easily fall prey to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse and systematic violations of their basic human rights.
Guyana is signatory to the seven major international human rights treaties; those treaties are binding instruments which Guyana has ratified. The treaties that speak directly to protection of the most vulnerable are: (1) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), whereby the parties undertake to take the necessary steps to adopt laws or other measures to give effect to the rights recognized in the covenant. Article 7 protects every person from being subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; specifically it states that no one shall be subjected to medical or scientific experimentation without his or her free consent. (2) Article 10 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966), states that the parties must recognize that they should take special protection and assistance measures on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions. Article 12 states that the parties recognize that all persons have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
These two covenants, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, constitute what is known as the International Bill of Rights. All three provide protection against discrimination against persons with mental disabilities. “We will not enjoy development without security, we will not enjoy security without development, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.” (Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, 2005) Let there be dignity and justice for all living in Guyana.
Pandit D Tillack