A GROUNDBREAKING declaration calling for an end to all forced and coerced psychiatric procedures and for the development of alternatives to psychiatry was signed at Cape Town ’s Robben Island Gateway in a ceremony held on Monday, March 24.
Members of MindFreedom International and local and international psychrights activists gathered to witness the historic occasion in which Mary Maddock, founder of MindFreedom Ireland, handed over the document to Moosa Salie of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry.
The declaration recognizes South Africa’s contribution to the struggle and the need to eliminate all forms of torture and coerced treatment. A spokesperson said: “South Africa has an admirable Bill of Rights, especially article 12 which grants all citizens the right to security in and control of the body, as well as bodily and psychological integrity”, but he cautioned against being too upbeat about current legislation, “Although South Africa has ratified the UN convention on the Rights of the Disabled which includes all those given psychiatric labels, notions such as self-ownership and the right to refuse treatment have yet to be incorporated in national legislation.
“We renew our fight today, against discrimination, injustice and for human rights in order to empower and improve the quality of life for those considered different or maladjusted, and others marginalized and disadvantaged by society, including those labeled with psychiatric disorders,” declares the groundbreaking document which follows on last years Declaration of Dresden opposing the use of forced electroshock, also known as Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) which is increasingly being used in poor and developing countries.
As more countries develop psychiatric services there is a significant increase in involuntary hospitalizations, forced treatment and drugging to conform to the biomedical model of human behaviour.
MindFreedom made news headlines when it assisted psychiatric patients fleeing detention in the United States under laws which have resulted in the incarcaration of people with different religious and political beliefs. The Declaration also follows last week’s ISAD conference in the city, sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry.
ALTHOUGH enshrined in the SA Bill of Rights, freedom of religion continues to apply exclusively to those religions with an orthodox base. The result is that Rastafarians continue to be denied their holy sacrement – dagga also known as marijuana. This is not a rant about the joys of ganga. Rather, it is an attempt to enlighten those who sse prohibition as the only solution. Would Catholics for example, be outraged if the state banned communion, or holy mass as an attempt to “intoxicate”?
Would Jews and Muslims be upset by the outlawing of circumcision as “child mutilation”? There are many laws which apply to civil society that have no place in a religious context. Psychedians, those who advocate the use of “mind-manifesting” drugs — are beginning to move away from the wholesale demand for access (within a grey area mapped out by calls for decriminalisation instead of outright legalisation), towards an entheogenic approach which recognizes social context. The worldwide trend towards a more sober appraisal of the popular use of illicit substances, — the specific mindset and environmental settings needed to create a true religious experience — recognises the need for ekstasis and entheos, i.e. religeous ecstasy and enthusiasm.
Taken within a religious context, marijuana may well be the holy sacrament missing from traditional religion. The same argument has been used to justify the use of peyote by the Native American Church, and other “medicines” deployed by indigenous healers, within the culturally appropriate context of shamanism.
Why then do we still see marches by Rastafarians, demanding rights that Christians take for granted? A recent demonstration in Cape Town was reported by Die Burger.