Legal capacity of persons with disabilities in Ethiopia: The need to reform existing legal frameworks.

Peer-reviewed article
(2017 Jan) Int J Law Psychiatry, 55 8-18


Marishet MH


The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) prohibited deprivation legal capacity of persons with disability based on assessment of mental capacity. The assertion is that, persons with disabilities shall exercise their legal capacity in all aspects of life without any restrictions that are based on mental incapacity (such as, unsoundness of mind, deficit in mental capacity, dotage, etc. This approach signifies a shift from substituted decision making, where another person act on behalf of persons with mental disabilities, to supported decision making where the person with mental disability is assisted in decision making. The rationale for the move lies on the recognition that the right to legal capacity embodies the inherent meaning of what it meant to be human. Without legal capacity a person cannot exercise all other rights and entitlements. Accordingly, States parties to CRPD are required to reform domestic legislations that are based on substituted decision making model and recognize full legal capacity of persons with disabilities in line with supported decision making model. As a Sate party to CRPD, Ethiopia assumed the same obligation. Nonetheless, in its initial report to the Committee on CRPD, the country denies existence of legislation that restricts legal capacity on the grounds of mental incapacity. This research found out that there are restrictions imposed on legal capacity of persons with disabilities on the basis of mental incapacity/disability. The research analyzed the approach employed to restrict legal capacity under the existing legal frameworks of Ethiopia vis-à-vis supported decision-making regime under CRPD. The research is doctrinal and, as such, limited to content analysis of general and specific legal capacity laws of the country (such as, marriage, divorce, will, work and employment, political participation, access to justice and others).