Mentally ill still denied rights

Glenda Cooper

There is outrage when vulnerable people are denied their human rights. However, there is one section of society who have suffered many abuses but for whom few speak up: those with learning disabilities or mental illness.

"Once you are diagnosed with a mental illness your rights go out of the window," said Liz Sayce, policy director of the charity Mind.

Anger has focused this week on the revelations of decades of compulsory sterilisations across Europe, but the practice remains legal in many countries. Mentally handicapped or mentally ill women can still be sterilised against their will in Britain, Ms Sayce said. "It is legal for people not deemed to have capacity to make the decision to be sterilised in their best interests."

Steve Billington, campaigns director for the charity Mencap which supports people with learning disabilities said: "It is outrageous that in the Nineties any woman can be forced to have a sterilisation for `social reasons'. No one would dispute sterilisation for sound medical reasons but it must be clear it ... is not just for society's convenience."

It is still all too often assumed that mentally ill or disabled patients should not have children and this is acted on in other ways such as long- lasting contraceptive injections or strongly persuading women to have abortions.

Ms Sayce said that people with mental disorders can have treatment imposed on them against their will under the Mental Health Act. "People can be incapacitated by a mental health problem and not be able to make a decision for hours or days but can be given treatment against their will under some sections for six months."

She also said: "Under the criminal justice system you are not considered a reliable witness, so there have been situations when women have been sexually assaulted and because they have had the diagnosis of mental illness police procedure has not been fully followed or the Crown Prosecution Service does not prosecute or gives priority to cases with `reliable witnesses'."

In the workplace, disability discrimination laws provide some protection, but mental patients can still be refused work. In some cases a person has to have had a disability for six months to be covered by legislation, so someone who has suffered from a depressive disorder for a month and refused a job on those grounds is not protected.

"We have started to think about those with physical disabilities - access to transport, the workplace - but those with mental health problems are still less regarded," Ms Sayce said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company provides IT support...

Recruitment Genius: IT Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manager is for a successfu...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £15864.28 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Re...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific