Human Rights Violations and People With Mental Disabilities: Causes and Remedies
In the book International Human Rights and Mental Disability Law: When the Silenced Are Heard, author Michael Perlin makes a forceful argument that in spite of international agreements intended to ensure human rights for people with mental disabilities, these rights are routinely violated. Among the key factors, he points to social attitudes called "sanism" (an attitudinal bias like homophobia) and "pretextuality" (referring to the ways courts offer client representation without authentic implementation; for instance, a court may provide inadequate counsel to achieve a preconceived goal of confinement while appearing to meet legal requirements).
Reviewer Julian Rappaport discusses what Perlin views as the antidote for these damaging social attitudes and practices—"therapeutic jurisprudence"—which seeks to illuminate the importance of "voice, validation, and voluntariness" through appropriate legal representation in the courts and ultimately allows people with mental disabilities to actualize their basic human rights.
Do you agree or disagree with Perlin that there is widespread violation of the rights of people with mental disabilities? Have you seen the impacts of sanism and pretextuality in your work, and do you agree/disagree they are major contributing factors to the unfair treatment of the mentally disabled by the courts? How do you think that voice, validation, and voluntariness can be more effectively integrated into the legal process?
By Julian Rappaport
PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(36)