Uganda: People with psychosocial disabilities demand, “END THE ABUSE!”

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Joint statement by the Pan African Network of People with Psychosocial Disabilities (PANSUP), Mental Health Uganda and the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre.

Last week MDAC was in Uganda and produced this 5-minute video, which is being shown in Geneva today to members of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

MDAC and MHU produced two reports in 2014 that set out the evidence for widespread abuse and neglect. The research, conducted across the country, found that people with psychosocial disabilities are: abused by traditional healers, abused in psychiatric hospitals, abused by their families and abused by the police.

The Ugandan Government have taken insufficient steps to regulate traditional healers. Abuse such as stuffing people’s noses with herbs, sacrificing chickens, and beating the devil out of people take place regularly. Healers extort vast amounts of money or livestock from family members who are often desperate to find help for their relatives with psychosocial disabilities, and living in poverty. 

“At night they beat you. They take you to a dark room; they say they’re consulting with their Gods. Something beats you which you can’t see.” – Richard, recounting his abuse at the hands of a witch doctor

The Government spends an estimated 2% of its health budget on mental health: a miniscule amount. The vast majority of this goes to Butabika, the big abusive psychiatric hospital in the capital. This is a wrong way to spend money because it invests in institutional approach that breeds abuse. The human rights-compliant way to spend money would be to invest in community support services.

“I thought I was in some sort of a grave, where I could not see light outside.” – Benon, a man who was put in seclusion at Butabika. 

The Ugandan Government has prepared a Mental Health Bill that legalises abuse by allowing detention, seclusion and restraint. It does not promote community-based services, including access to basic medications and psychotherapeutic services to people with psychosocial disabilities who need and want it. The Government prepared the Bill with limited participation of people with psychosocial disabilities or their representative organisations. The NGOs demand that the Government abandons the Bill. Instead Ugandans with psychosocial disabilities are saying, “this needs to be our law”, and demand that the Government listens to their concerns, their wishes, and their rights.

Read a briefing that MDAC, Mental Health Uganda and PANUSP have sent to CRPD Committee members: available in Word and PDF.

Read the shadow report produced by MDAC and Mental Health Uganda: available in Word and PDF.

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