What is the right to political participation?
In many countries people with disabilities are denied the right to vote and stand for election. The right to vote restricted from people without full legal capacity, yet the vast majority of people including those without verbal communication, can express an opinion with adequate support. People detained in psychiatric hospitals are also in some countries stripped of the right to vote. Political disenfranchisement further increases the political invisibility of people with disabilities and their needs and concerns, and makes it easy for policy-makers to ignore their demands. In advocating for political participation we expose and challenge deeply-held stereotypes and prejudices that people with intellectual disabilities are incompetent and easily manipulated, that a rational vote exists (and people with psycho-social disabilities and irrational do not vote rationally), and that giving people with mental health issues the right to vote constitutes a threat to democracy.
In addition to voting every few years, political participation means the receptivity of governmental bodies to reach out and involve people with disabilities in policy-making. The CRPD is essentially an NGO text and was crafted with unprecedented civil society engagement. Willingness for people with disabilities to engage is hardly reflected in domestic legislative and policy reform. Particularly excluded are people with intellectual disabilities, and people with psycho-social disabilities (in Hungary for example, the law excludes psycho-social disabilities from the legal definition of disability).
How is political participation a human rights issue?
Article 29 of the CRPD establishes the right to vote and stand for election on an equal basis with others, and ensures that people with disabilities receive reasonable accommodations and support to enable them to vote: a lack of prohibition is necessary but not sufficient. Article 4(3) ensures that “[i]n the development and implementation of legislation and policies to implement the […] Convention, and in other decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, States Parties shall closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations”. This covers the agenda-setting and implementation parts of the policy cycle, and the monitoring of policies is dealt with in Article 33(3) which ensures participation of people with disabilities in domestic independent CRPD monitoring bodies. States are also encouraged to ensure that people with disabilities serve on the treaty body.
What is MDAC calling for?
- People with disabilities have the right to vote and stand for election, and are assisted in doing so.
- People with intellectual disabilities and psycho-social disabilities closely consulted and actively involved in policy and law reform.
What impact has MDAC achieved?
MDAC was involved in the 2010 European Court of Human Rights judgment in Kiss v. Hungary where the Court found a violation of the right to vote. We are actively following through with this case in Hungary. In early 2010 MDAC coordinated an amicus curiae brief which was signed by 25 organisations and submitted to the Czech Constitutional Court, inviting the Court to declare unconstitutional the law which prohibits people with disabilities from voting. The court rejected the case, which will not deter MDAC from pursuing advocacy.
- Utilising research results to advocate reform in several countries. In an EU-funded research project called ‘Aspen’, MDAC is currently researching the extent to which people with psycho-social disabilities and their organisations are involved in recent mental health law and policy reforms in 16 EU Member States.
- In our Article 33 project, we will focusing on the participation of people with disabilities and their representative organisations to participate in the domestic monitoring (UK Government-funded).