GENEVA (4 September 2018) – Reforms in Peru which remove legal barriers to people with disabilities enjoying full human rights have been welcomed by a UN rights expert as a “milestone” in the recognition of full citizenship.
“These changes to Peruvian law are an example for all States to follow. They recognise the legal capacity of people with disabilities, remove restrictions to their rights, and provide support to allow them to take their own decisions,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas.
Before the reforms, Peru’s civil code allowed a judge to declare a person with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities incompetent to take care of his or her self and property, and to impose another person as a guardian. But such measures were contrary to human rights standards.
The Special Rapporteur urged more States to follow the same path of reform as Peru and make any restriction of legal capacity for people with disabilities a thing of the past.
Ms Devandas noted that, since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities more than 30 countries had started legal reforms in this area. However, the UN expert remained concerned that throughout the world millions of people with disabilities, in particular those with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, and autistic people, continue to be systematically deprived of their legal capacity.
“These people lose their ability to exercise rights, such as voting, giving consent to medical treatment, deciding where and with whom to live, signing a work contract or marrying. It limits every aspect of their lives," Ms Devandas said.
The expert also emphasised the important role of people with disabilities and their organisations in the reform process. "They were the main promoters of this reform in Peru, showing the importance of people with disabilities actively taking part in decision-making," she said.
The Special Rapporteur congratulated the Peruvian Government and encouraged the swift adoption of all the necessary measures to fully implement the reform.
"The justice system, notaries, public offices, universities and the private sector need to fully embrace this reform so that it becomes a reality. The paradigm shift should not be limited to the law but should be translated into a change in the attitudes and actions of all people concerned," Ms Devandas stressed.
Ms Catalina Devandas (Costa Rica) was designated as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities in June 2014 by the UN Human Rights Council. Ms Devandas has worked extensively on disability issues at the national, regional and international level with the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, the UN unit responsible for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Bank. Her work has focused on the rights of women with disabilities and the rights of indigenous peoples with disabilities.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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