Rashida Manjoo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women
Human Rights for the Elderly
Expert Group Meeting on the Human Rights of Older Persons. United Nations Headquarters, New York, 29 to 31 May 2012
Report by Devindree Pillay
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
From 29-31 May 2012, a group of experts from different fields convened to deepen the dialogue around core human rights principles as they apply to older persons. The experts provided content, relevant examples on legislation or policies, law case studies and guidance for member States as they continue their consideration of measures to strengthen the international protection regime for older persons. Regrettably, evidence points in the direction that there is widespread neglect of older persons and mounting human rights issues are inadequately addressed by national and international bodies due to the absence of a dedicated focus.
The following sections took stock of some main areas where protection gaps relevant to older persons were identified: Age discrimination, Legal capacity and equal recognition before the law, Long-term care, Violence and abuse, Access to productive resources, work, food and housing in old age, Social protection and the right to social security, Right to health and end-of-life care, Old age and disabilities, Older persons in prison and access to justice.
When absorbing the detailed content of the presentations, it became very apparent to me that this was truly an initiative based on deep love and respect for humanity. No stone was being left unturned and there was clearly a call to afford the elderly the dignity and respect that they deserve, regardless of their backgrounds and circumstances.
I recalled the many elderly people I have worked with in South Africa, be it in homes for the aged, hospitals, prisons or in the deep rural community health settings. Their struggles and the many injustices they faced were difficult to observe, and I was always of the opinion that this was the way things were and the elderly needed to be assisted to adjust to their challenging circumstances. However at these meetings, I was filled with renewed hope. Should the human rights, specific to the aforementioned topic, be brought into legally binding policies within countries, then certainly the most wise and experienced members of our society can enjoy their final days, living in dignity.