By *Jeshua Bardoo
According to the United Nations, “Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviours that frighten, intimidate, terrorise, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone”.
Abuse in all of its various forms is prevalent in Vincentian society, but those most affected are the vulnerable and most disadvantaged, which includes the elderly or older persons.
Globally, older persons may face issues of isolation, abandonment, prolonged physical restraint, expulsion from the community, deprivation of food, infantilisation, medical treatments that are, inter alia, inadequate, disproportional or that constitute mistreatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment that jeopardises their safety and integrity.
Older persons have the same fundamental rights and freedoms as other persons in society and those rights, including the right not to be subjected to age-based discrimination or any form of violence, are rooted in the dignity and equality inherent in all human beings.
In the past various international documents have been created that expound upon the rights of the elderly or older persons, such as the United Nations Principles for Older Persons (1991), the Proclamation on Ageing (1992), and the Political Declaration and Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (2002), as well as in such regional instruments as the Regional Strategy for the Implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (2003), the Brasilia Declaration (2007), the Plan of Action on the Health of Older Persons, including Active and Healthy Aging (2009) of the Pan American Health Organization, the Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain (2009), and the San José Charter on the Rights of Older Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean (2012), etc.
However, it was not until 2015 that the first legally-binding international treaty governing the rights of older persons was approved by OAS Member States and then entered into force in 2017. The Inter-American Convention on the Protection of the Human Rights of Older Persons was created under the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights to promote and protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the elderly or older persons, in order to contribute to their full inclusion, integration, and participation in society.
This convention, amongst other rights, establishes the right to care for elderly persons, the need to incorporate and give priority to the issue of aging in public policies, the importance of facilitating the formulation and compliance with laws and programs for the prevention of abuse, abandonment, neglect, mistreatment, and violence against the elderly, and the need to have national mechanisms that protect their fundamental rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has not signed, ratified, or acceded to this Convention.
I encourage the state to create and enforce laws and programs that help to prevent abuse, abandonment, negligence, and mistreatment of and violence against older persons, and to have national mechanisms that protect their fundamental rights and freedoms. I also encourage the SVG to become a signatory to the Inter-American Convention on the Protection of the Human Rights of Older Persons.
*Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian barrister-at-law and solicitor. He is the President of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. He also has an LLM in international human rights law. He can be contacted via email at [email protected]
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