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Activists want laws on mental health amended

By Nelson Kiva

Added 23rd February 2019 06:19 PM

The Act refers to persons with psychosocial disabilities as “persons of unsound mind” defined to mean “an idiot or a person who is suffering from mental derangement.”


KAMPALA - Parliament has been asked to amend the law on mental health. Activists argue that many sections of the mental health legislation violate the rights of persons with psycho-social disabilities.

The laws that govern mental health in Uganda include Mental Treatment Act, Cap 279 and Mental Health Bill, 2014.

The report  published  by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) with support from the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) and other partners recently,  does not only identified gaps in the mental health legislations but also the broader legal framework in addressing disability concerns.

The legal analysis report recommends that several sections of the law should be amended.

Mental Treatment Act, Cap 279, according to Dr. Busingye Kabumba, a principal lecturer school of law at Makerere University, has a number of concerns which are in contravention with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The Act refers to persons with psychosocial disabilities as “persons of unsound mind” defined to mean “an idiot or a person who is suffering from mental derangement.”

“This definition violates the right of persons with psychosocial disabilities to their inherent dignity guaranteed under the CRPD and the Constitution of Uganda,” Busigye said.

He added: “In the petition No.64 of 2011 of Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and Iga Daniel against the Attorney General, the Constitutional Court of Uganda pronounced itself and condemned the use of such language to refer to PWDs in the legislation.”

The laws don also questions the various procedures under the Act relating to the admission of PWDs in mental institutions, insisting that they fall short in meeting the threshold of the UN convention.

Busigye insists that the person with psychosocial disability, can only be admitted at a mental health facility when a magistrate adjudges him or her of unsound mind and issues a reception order.

This he said, can happen after the magistrate has received information on oath by an informant that a person is suspected to have psychosocial disabilities or after receiving an application from a relative or a friend.

While Busingye lauds the Mental Health Bill, 2014, for attempting to address the right to respect and human dignity, right to privacy and non-disclosure of health information among others, however rejuvenates the medical treatment of the Mental Treatment Act.

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