Two civil rights groups have threatened to drag the Ministry of Health to courts if it fails to ensure that the Mental Health Bill of 1949 is presented to Parliament on one of the bills to be realigned to the new Constitution by 10th March 2016.
In a letter written to Health Minister Joseph Kasonde dated 17, February, 2016, Mental Health Users Network of Zambia Watch executive director Sylvester Katonoka and Disability Rights Watch coordinator Bruce Chooma said the Act of 1949 was not constitutional and not in conformity with the International Human Rights law.
The duo argued that the Mental Disorders Act of 1949 continued to portray persons with mental impairments as less than human and has perpetuated the gross abrogation of the rights and fundamental freedoms of people with mental impairments.
“We have attended two drafting workshops led by the Ministry of Justice and our belief is that the draft bill is ready to be presented to Parliament. We received the news that the bill will not going to Parliament in the current sitting with shock and this raises desperation in us,” read the letter in part.
The activists have since demanded urgent answers from the minister as to whether issues concerning mental health are a priority to the Government or not.
The letter further questions whether Government was indirectly asking the civil rights groups to seek judicial review to declare the Mental Health Disorders Act of 1949 null and void due to its noncompliance to the Constitution of Zambia and the International Human Rights Law.
“We are fully ready to take this direction! honourable, we recommend that you immediately take the necessary steps to ensure that the Bill is passed by the current sitting of Parliament. This means that the Bill will be passed by Parliament by 10th March, 2016,” stated the letter.