Neurodiversity in Chile’s new Constitution

Another reason to vote in favor

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – Chile is going through a historic institutional political process, not only for the country, which has never had a constitution written under a democracy, but also on an international level, as different constitutional laws are being passed that very few Constitutions have seen, if any.

Thus this draft Constitution is taking on global problems, such as the climate crisis, racism against indigenous peoples, the centralism of large cities, non-human animal abuse and violence against women, breakaway sex and gender groups and neurodivergent people.

The latter, the neurodivergents, are what put Chile at the vanguard on a global scale with this draft Constitution, giving formal recognition to thousands of people who have been diagnosed with mental health issues and/or for having a psychosocial disability or neurodevelopmental disorder.

These neurodivergent people have not only had to suffer violence in the form of stigmatization, discrimination, abuse, human rights violations, forced confinement, forced sterilization and even torture, but also violence as a result of the psychiatric treatment (electroconvulsive therapy) they receive, which continue to see mental health issues from a rationalist model.

This is why it’s so important that the corresponding law not only talks about neurodivergents, but also about neurodiversity, as it breaks down the biomedical discourse about normality, as it understands that there is a broader spectrum of human diversity, showing that neurotypicals form only one part of this plurality.

As a result, what’s stipulated in Article 29 of the draft Constitution is extremely important, as it points out that “The State recognizes neurodiversity and guarantees neurodivergents their right to a self-sufficient life, to developing their freedom and identity freely, exercising their legal capacity and rights recognized in this Constitution and international human rights treaties and pacts which are ratified and in force in Chile.” 

In other words, the new Constitution will force the State to recognize neurodiversity and guarantee conditions for everyone’s development, leaving stigma and psychiatric labels behind which only seek to deny differences in viewing and experiencing the world, to give way to an inclusive human rights view.

At the same time, this unprecedented recognition of neurodiversity in Chile’s new draft Constitution is just the beginning of a long process of coexistence, that is not only connected to people’s mental health and a self-sufficient life, but also about how we build a society without preconceptions and stereotypes, which are ingrained in us from a very young age.

Consequently, the role of the new National Education System, also outlined in the draft Constitution, as well as in public media, are key to promoting a view that contemplates neurodiversity as a treasure and not as a problem, like more conservative groups tend to see it, given their fear of anything different and approving these kinds of laws.

Within this context, it’s everyone’s job to defend neurodiversity, and we can’t delegate it to a particular body, as it’s something that is completely cross-cutting, as well as other demands presented in the new Constitution, such as parity of gender, the right to care, plurinationalism, rights of Nature and non-human animals as legal subjects.

All that said, it’s impossible not to mention the role that organized citizens have played during this entire constitutional process and before it, where in the neurodiversity field especially, the National Movement for the Defense of Mental Health, has pushed this discussion for years, with many actions to shine a light on the issue.

Lastly, it’s important to name individual organizations, which people from the health sector, activists, experts by experience, and allies of neurodiversity form part of, such as the Mesa Técnica del Movimiento Nacional de Defensa de la Salud Mental, Asociacion Autismo Arica, Centro Cultural Equidad y Género de Maule, Corporación ANUSSAM, Circulo Emancipador de Mujeres y Niñas con Discapacidad de Chile (CIMUNIDIS), Corporacion Voces, Observatorio de Derechos Humanos en Salud Mental Bío Bío and the NGO Siendo.

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One thought on “Neurodiversity in Chile’s new Constitution

  • I hadn’t thought about Neurodiversity before, but it makes sense. Since I was a kid I know a person with down syndrome and she is very talented with making scripts for theater shows. Recently I meet someone with Asperger syndrome and we become very good friends. The difference in the capacities is clear if you only see them in a shallow way. But if you get to know them you will see that there are little to no differences.
    This might help people who try to understand neurodiversity persons in a deeper way.

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