Article 1 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood
Article 27 of the Kenyan Constitution, 2010
Every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law. People with epilepsy share the same rights and obligations as anyone else. And the most important right may be Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that we are all born free and equal in dignity and rights. This means, for example, that the right to have an opinion counts; for the president of Kenya, as it does for you or any other global citizen.
However, there are groups in society that need some extra attention to have a healthy fulfilling life. These are the groups often miss out on chances to make use of their rights. For instance women only take 15 to 16 percent of top positions in business (Sheryl Sandberg, 2012), only ten percent of people with physical challenges go to school as children, and of whom only twenty percent would have a job in some countries (UNESCO, 2012). People with epilepsy are among the most vulnerable in society not only because of the condition itself, but also due to the stigma; this leads to discrimination and limitations in economic, political, social and cultural rights. (IBE, ILAE, WHO, 2012).
Therefore both international institutions and countries have made special laws to give some extra protection to vulnerable groups.
According to the Kenyan Constitution, Acts of Parliament and the International Conventions, people with epilepsy belong to various groups with special rights, such as:
1) Persons with Disabilities
According to the Kenyan Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a person is disabled when they are hindered in their common day-to-day activities due to a physical and/or a mental challenge. This means that a person with epilepsy is ‘disabled’ when their seizures hinder their day-to-day activities. However, when the same person with epilepsy takes the treatment which controls the seizures and enables them to undertake day-to-day activities, they are no longer viewed as disabled.
Is Samson disabled?
Samson has epilepsy but doesn’t let this condition stop him from being very active and hardworking. Last year he cleared form four and now studies and works. With the money he earns, he can pay for his visits to the doctor and the drugs he takes daily. As long as he takes his drugs and eats and drinks well, he is perfectly healthy and fit to work study and socialize.
However, sometimes he forgets to take good care of himself and doesn’t eat or drink enough. This causes dehydration which is a trigger of his seizures. In June 2012, he had to be admitted to hospital due to this dehydration. For more than a month he couldn’t go to class and do his work because he needed to recover in hospital.
Is Samson disabled? Yes, he is disabled when he forgets to take good care of himself and gets the seizures. It hinders him in undertaking his day-to-day activities of work, study and socialization. But no, he is not disabled when he drinks and eats well while he takes his treatment, because then he is as active, or maybe even more active than any other person without epilepsy.
People who are hindered in their day-to-day activities due to physical challenges have equal rights to people who are not. Like anyone else, they have the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to be addressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning.
However, they have some extra rights: they have the right to reasonable access to all places, public transport and information. They especially have the right to access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities that are integrated into society according to the interests of the person. They even have the right to access materials and devices to overcome constraints from their disability. Some people need more assistance than others to achieve this; therefore it’s a very useful right in the Kenyan Constitution.
When you are 0 to 18 years old, you can make use of children’s rights contained in Article 53. The most important right of children is the right to parental care and protection, basic nutrition, shelter and health care and the right to free and compulsory basic education.
You can make use of the youth rights when you’re between 18 and 35 years old (Article 55). The rights of youth include the right to access education, training, employment and to associate, be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life. In addition they also have the right to protection from harmful cultural practices and exploitation.
4) People with Non-Communicable Diseases
Epilepsy is a non-communicable disease. People with epilepsy can make use of the statements in the Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (2011). This declaration states that, these conditions are a serious threat to people’s health, and that the Government must respond effectively to their health-care needs. The Kenyan Government needs to create access to efficient programs and health-care interventions. According to the Declaration, the current resources for the treatment and prevention of non-communicable diseases do not address the seriousness of the problem.