Friday, March 14, 2008

From India: Women with Disabilities Left Naked in Psychiatric Ward

Linda forwarded this posting---I ran it by Jim Charlton, author of Nothing About Us Without Us and international disability rights activist, and he knows Anita Ghai. This is a reputable call to action.

Dear friends,

It happened on 8th of March 2008, a day when some of us were busy observing International Women's Day. At Pavlov Mental Hospital, a Government run mental hospital in Kolkata, daughter of one female patient came to visit her. As her condition was serious, Doctor Ashis Acharya took the daughter to visit her mother in the ward. To their utter dismay they found that not only the mother, but also all the female patients were stark naked. According to the hospital authorities, this happened because the clothes were gone for washing.
As Dr. Acharya protested, the Class IV staff started agitating against him and asked him to apologies. Dr. Acharya refused to do so, however, Hospital Super apologized on his behalf. One of the nurses, when asked said normally second set of clothes are given to them when one set goes for washing but keeping mentally ill patients complete naked is "not a serious issue".

We have heard several stories of torture within Pavlov Mental hospital and we are also aware how in all Government hospitals in West Bengal it is the class IV staff who rules and the doctors and senior officials have so say in such serious matter. This incident, which was reported in Anandabazar Patrika on 10th of March 2008, not only reinforced our previous information but to say the least, we were very much disturbed ( In my limited knowledge of English I could not find any other word than disturbed).

Members of Sruti disability Rights centre thought we have to do something now. We got in touch with Anjali, an organization that works specifically on mental health issues and also at Pavlov Mental Hospital. With members of Anjali, we tried to get in touch with Health Department. It was my good fortune that I could talk to Dr. Surjya Kanta Mishra, Minister in Charge, Health, West Bengal over phone. He however refused to give us an appointment as assembly session is on and he is busy. He asked me to write a letter to his department. We tried to get an appointment with Dr. K.K. Bagchi, Secretary to the Health Department also. His P.A. Mr. Pradip Seal informed us that Dr. Bagchi is a very busy person and we may not be able to get his time also. Well, it seems the health department is too busy to ponder over such a non-issue of keeping female mentally ill patients naked within hospitals.

Since we can not keep quite in such a serious violation of human rights of women who are disabled, we are organizing protest march, we are also writing to our health minister, which he requested us to do.
And I would request you to also write protest letters to him in the below mentioned address.

Dr. Surjya Kanta Misra
Swastha Bhavan
GN 29 Sector V
Salt Lake
Kolkata 700 091
Fax 033 23577910

Anita Ghai
Department Of Psychology
Jesus and Mary College
Resi:- J12.68 B Rajouri Garden
New Delhi