The Centre for Human Rights in collaboration with the South African Human Rights Commission launched the travelling exhibition I decide=I am at the Commissions’ headquarters in Johannesburg yesterday. The globally acclaimed exhibition by Bulgarian illustrator Nadezhda Georgieva and award winning journalist and human rights activist Yana Buhrer tells the personal stories and reflections of sixteen people denied of their legal capacity because of their psychosocial or intellectual disability.

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, South African Human Rights Commissioner responsible for Disability and Older Persons, Commissioner Bokankatla Malatji said the exhibition was part of a broader effort to raise awareness, promote understanding and public support of the right to legal capacity of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities as guaranteed by article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The exhibition which was commissioned by the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law Foundation as part of its advocacy efforts to change the legislation on guardianship in Bulgaria in 2016 has been used around the world, including in Ireland, Geneva, Kazakhstan and Peru to promote the abolishment of substituted decision making and the implementation of the concept of supported decision making in line with article 12 of the CRPD.

During the panel discussion on the right to legal capacity which preceded the opening of the exhibition University of Pretoria, Faculty of Law Professor Charles Ngwena reiterated that article 12 of the CRPD requires states to recognize persons with disabilities as individuals before the law, possessing legal capacity, including the capacity to act, on an equal basis with others. In addition, states are required to provide access by persons with disabilities to the support they might require in exercising their legal capacity and establish appropriate and effective safeguards against the abuse of such support.

Ms. Jacquie Cassette, the National Practice Head: Pro Bono and Human Rights Practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr in outlining the legal position in South Africa regarding the legal capacity of persons with intellectual and psychosocial  pointed out that the South African Constitution which is premised on equality before the law and equal protection and benefit from the law requires that persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities are recognized as persons before the law on an equal basis with others.

The exhibition which will be on display the Commission until 14 July features in addition three emotive images by South African artist and co-curator of the exhibition Daniel Mosako on the role that guardianship laws had in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.The exhibition is infused with poignant vernacular audio narratives of people living with psychosocial disabilities telling their stories of life without voice, choice and control collected by the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH).

Ms. Charlene Sunkel, Program Manager: Advocacy and Development at SAFMH and a self-advocate who was first diagnosed with schizophrenia at 19 years shared her experience of how having decisions made for her because of the belief that as a person with a psychosocial disability she could not make informed decisions chipped at her dignity as a person.

The exhibition will be displayed at different organisations including the Cliff Dekker Hofmeyr, Pan African Parliament, South African Federation for Mental Health throughout the year and end at the University of Pretoria where it will be displayed during the Centre’s annual disability rights conference taking place 7-8 November 2017.The exhibition will be at the South African Federation for Mental Health from 17-28 July 2017.

Opening the exhibition Ms. Innocentia Mgijima Konopi from the Centre for Human Rights said she hoped that that public discourse on legal capacity reforms will increase from the travelling exhibition.

The exhibition was made possible by the financial support of the Open Society Foundation and the technical support of theDepartment of University of Pretoria Arts: Museum Unit.

For more information on the exhibition/to become a partner in the exhibition and to include a personal experience of being deprived of the right to exercise legal capacity please contact. 

Ms Innocentia Mgijima-Konopi
 | innocentia.mgijima@up.ac.za

Ms Sewela Masie | sewela.masie@up.ac.za


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