My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
INTRODUCING AN ORGANISATION THAT WILL CHALLENGE THE STATE AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO FULFIL THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATIONS ON HEALTH
At 4pm on 7 May 2010, a new human rights organisation – SECTION27 – will be launched formally in Johannesburg in the presence of Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron and a range of leaders from civil society in South Africa and internationally.
Venue: Atlas Studios, 33 Frost Avenue, Milpark, Johannesburg
SECTION27 incorporates the AIDS Law Project (ALP), one of South Africa’s most successful post-apartheid human rights organisations. Given the intensifying legal, political and social challenges facing South Africa, particularly in respect of health, refocusing our mission became a logical progression of the ALP’s work.
SECTION27 is a public interest law centre that will focus on access to health care services and other socio-economic rights. SECTION27 will combine research, advocacy and legal action to improve the socio-economic conditions that undermine human dignity and development, prevent poor people from reaching their full potential and lead to the spread of diseases that have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable and marginalised people.
Health is central to dignity and equality and all other rights are central to health. Forming SECTION27 is not an attempt to move away from HIV/AIDS. We reject arguments that HIV/AIDS has been overfunded at the expense of health more broadly. There has been progress on HIV because we have fought for it as a human right. In our view, HIV/AIDS will continue to be the litmus test for the delivery of health services over the coming years: for example, the epidemic poses major issues in respect of appropriate budgeting and expenditure. Placing the spotlight on HIV offers an entry point for tackling the systemic problems that confront the health system.
SECTION27 draws its name from section 27 of the South African Constitution, which lies at the heart of our supreme law’s commitment to socio-economic rights. Health challenges are a major feature of our new democracy and intensifying and placing a closer focus on the right to health will benefit HIV. The duty to ensure access to quality health care services falls not just on government but on the well-resourced private health sector as well.
SECTION27 will also have a focus on socio-economic rights more broadly. For example, SECTION27 will throw its weight behind organisations that fight for the right to basic education. In addition, the pursuit of rights to have access to health care services, sufficient food and basic education will require us to promote and defend foundational rule of law questions such as transparency, accountability and the appropriate regulation of both public and private power.
Recently there has been much debate on the rule of law and transformation of the judiciary and the legal profession. Elements of government, the ANC and the private sector have questioned the value of key parts of the Constitution as well as the role of the courts that are required to uphold it. SECTION27 will join this debate and seek to shape it. We are not pro-government or pro-business. We are pro-poor, pro-human rights, pro-equality, pro-health and pro-Constitution. It is with these commitments that we announce a new force for health and social justice in South Africa, SECTION27.
Press release issued by SECTION27
Visit the site at: www.section27.org.za