Civil Society Organisations that advocate for the rights of people with mental illnesses have called on Parliament and the Ministry of Health to quickly develop regulations and policies to ease the implementation of the new Mental Health law.
This was during their address to the media at the East Africa Centre for Disability Law and Policy (CDLP) offices in Ntinda following the signing into law the Mental Health Bill by President Yoweri Museveni.
The group led by Derick Mbuga, Angela Kamugasa, Arnest Lugemwa, Benon Kabale and Hassan Wadimba appreciated the signing into law of the new Bill. The law sought to cause amendments in the outdated colonial legislation of 1964 that was riddled with derogatory languange that accelerates stigma and discrimination against people with mental health problems.
Angela Kamugasa from My Story Initiative noted that despite the new amendments, Parliament on the lower side opted to regulate rather than totally ban the use of Seclusion, Restraint and Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT).
“This is totally in contradiction with the 2013 Special Rapporteur report on Torture that finds these as not forms of treatment but torture and therefore should not be used anywhere,” Kamugasa said.
She added that, worse still, the law allows these to be applied without informed consent of the person seeking the treatment, a position which represents grave violation of human rights.
“The new law also wrongly advocates in favour of the detention and compulsory admission of persons with mental disabilities in psychiatric facilities in violation of the rights to equality and liberty,” Kamugasa told reporters at the news conference.
Derick Mbuga from Mental Health Uganda (MHU) cited sections of the law which wrongly argue for increased funding for the Police to exercise such powers all of which appear to criminalize persons with mental disabilities.
The group has thus appealed to the Minister of Health to exercise its powers to nominate members to the Mental Health Advisory Board as established by the new law and ensure that it serves its intended purpose.
“On resuming business in 2019, Parliament should embark on developing regulations for the implementation of the new law,” Mbuga said.
“Although the new law pushes for community mental health services, it doesn’t provide a clear-cut framework on how this will be realized,” he added.
Mbuga also proposed that the Ministry of Health embarks on a countrywide consultative process to develop a mental Health Policy to support the implementation of the new law.