FRA Director, Morten Kjaerum: "The right to vote is a fundamental right of all EU citizens, including persons with disabilities. Some EU Member States should therefore adapt their laws so that persons with mental health problems and persons with intellectual disabilities who wish to vote can do so. These individuals should be able to participate in society as other citizens do. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sends a clear message: it is not persons with disabilities who need to change to fit society, but society itself, which must adapt to the needs of persons with disabilities. "
"Even if I cannot speak, it does not mean I have nothing to say"
(Interviewee in a FRA study)
The report's findings show that too often EU Member States automatically deny voting rights to persons who do not have legal capacity. In such cases, persons who are not legally entitled to enter into contracts or marry, for example, because they have a mental health problem or an intellectual disability, are automatically denied the right to vote, with no individual assessment by a court or judge of their capacity. This approach seems to contradict the article of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on legal capacity.
"Nothing about us without us"
This report is part of a larger research project by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights on the fundamental rights of persons with mental health problems and persons with intellectual disabilities. In addition to an analysis of relevant laws in the 27 EU Member States, the ongoing research also assesses the situation on the ground, involving persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with mental health problems as researchers. The findings about the fundamental rights challenges faced by these two groups of individuals will be published in 2012.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) represents a major shift in the way disability is conceptualised; it is society that must adapt to the needs of persons with disabilities, not these individuals who need to be "cured".
The European Union has signed the CRPD and 16 of the 27 EU Member States have already ratified it. As the first human rights treaty to which the EU will accede, this marks an important step towards guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities living in the EU.
The findings of the FRA report will be presented at a conference in Lisbon on promoting social inclusion and combating stigma in mental health, by the FRA project manager, Mario Oetheimer, on 9 November.
The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has published the following report today:
For further information please contact the FRA Media Team
Tel.: +43 158 030 642
Notes to Editors:
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is mandated to provide evidence-based advice to decision-makers in the EU. The Agency's evidence aims at informing EU and national policy-makers and contextualising debates on fundamental rights in the European Union.
The report on the political participation of persons with mental health problems and persons with intellectual disabilities examines the legal situation in the 27 EU Member States. It is based on data collected by the FRA legal network of experts (FRALEX).
Mental Health Problems can affect a person's thoughts, body, feelings, and behaviour. These problems can be severe, seriously interfering with a person's life, and even cause a person to become disabled or commit suicide. Mental health problems include depression, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and conduct disorder.
Intellectual Disability (also described as ‘mental disability' or ‘learning difficulty') refers to a permanent condition characterised by significantly lower than average intellectual ability, resulting in limitations in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behaviour as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills. It is usually present from birth or develops before the age of 18. A person with intellectual disability usually requires support in several areas of life activity: self-care, receptive and expressive communication, and economic self-sufficiency.