The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in 2009 stated that:
“A basic principle of human rights is that the agreed norms apply to every human being. However, the international human rights norms have been denied to persons with disabilities. It was this failure which prompted member states of the United Nations to adopt the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which emphasizes that people with all types of disabilities are entitled to the full range of human rights on an equal basis with others. The aim is to promote their inclusion and full participation in society. When we deprive some individuals of their rights to represent themselves we contradict these standards”.
Legal Capacity refers to an individuals’ right to make decisions- big and small- for him/her self and have these decisions respected. When a person’s capacity to make decisions is called into question (on the basis of mental illness, intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, or other reason), the state should make available a range of responses appropriate to the needs of the person.
It is against this background that Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations (ZAFOD) and The Mental Health Users Network of Zambia (MHUNZA) are jointly implementing a project, END EXCLUSION! RIGHTS FOR ALL! The Initiative seeks to advance the right to legal capacity for people with mental health and intellectual disabilities in Zambia. It is a multi-level project working to build the capacity of individuals, families, and the communities they live in – in order to develop effective community based supports towards increased social inclusion. The project is being implemented in Kazungula, Mansa and Shangombo districts, with financial and technical support from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society (IRIS).
Although the Persons with Disabilities Act 2012 guarantee the exercise and enjoyment of Legal Capacity, the situation on the ground leaves much to be desired. There are a lot of challenges being faced by persons with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities within their communities.