By Carla Samon Ros
Lima, March 25th (efe-epa) .- A mixture of pride and nostalgia grips Dorcas Guillermo as she recalls the campaign that culminated in the landmark 2012 law to protect the rights of disabled people in Peru – an accomplishment which they and other activists see as jeopardized by a Congress push for new legislation on the matter.
“You want to repeal the law, and I see it as a political machination that ignores the decisions and opinions of disabled people and their families,” she tells Efe.
Dorcas, 50, fears that she and thousands of other Peruvians with disabilities could lose highly competitive rights if Congress passes law to replace the 2012 law, Law 29973, which emerged as a citizens’ initiative.
Critics of the law before Congress point out that it was drafted without input from people with disabilities and that it violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which Peru ratified in 2007.
“I hope Congress sends this text back to the committee for real consultation with disabled people,” said Carlos Rios Espinosa, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, in an interview with Efe.
Last October, HRW sent a letter to the then chairman of the responsible congress committee, Mirtha Esther Vasquez, in which she was reminded of the need for prior consultation. However, the message was unanswered and ignored.
“They don’t want to listen to us,” Silvia Carrasco, co-founder of the Center for Empowerment of People with Disabilities, told Efe.
Carrasco, who has a 21-year-old son with Down syndrome and a 17-year-old diagnosed with autism, said the final draft of the bill wasn’t released until February 5, three days before the committee approved the document, which is more than 200 pages long.
“It was very difficult to understand,” admitted Agustina Condoris, whose son is disabled, to Efe.
Condoris, a resident of the poor neighborhood of Villa Maria del Triunfo in Lima, said she was “very concerned” about the urge to pass the laws in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the upcoming general election.
The bill implies “significant regression in several areas,” said Rios of HRW.
For example, the proposal provides scholarships for students with disabilities but, contrary to current practice, this would link eligibility to the severity of the disability.
People with only “slight” disabilities would be excluded.
Such a “purely medical” categorization scheme is inconsistent with the UN Convention because “ability is a relational concept,” said Rios.
“If we need to determine who is eligible, we need to do a psychosocial assessment,” he said.
Another important objection to the law is that it would affect the legal autonomy of disabled people suffering from mental health problems.
In Law 29973, Peru has some of the world’s most advanced laws on the subject, requiring prior patient consent for any type of mental health treatment.
“But now the new text provides for a person to be admitted to hospital involuntarily for reasons of therapeutic need, and this has been identified as a measure that violates the rights of disabled people,” said Rios.
Disabled people and their advocates agree that Congress should not replace Law 29973 but improve it, primarily taking steps to enforce it. EFE csr / dr