AKIPRESS.COM - Children with disabilities in state institutions in Kazakhstan are at risk of physical violence, forced sedation, and neglect, Human Rights Watch said on July 17.
Kazakhstan should make it a priority to move children with disabilities out of closed residential institutions and provide support for children with disabilities to live with their families, or in other family settings in the community. All forms of violence in closed institutions and the use of restraints as a form of punishment, control, or retaliation, or as a measure of convenience for staff, should be prohibited.
“Hundreds of children and young adults with disabilities in Kazakhstan are locked away in closed children’s institutions, where they can face neglect and violence, and are isolated from families and society,” said Mihra Rittmann, senior Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Kazakhstan should call a halt to these abusive practices and urgently develop a way for children with disabilities and their families to get the services they need to protect their right to a family life.”
Between October 2017 and April 2019, Human Rights Watch interviewed 27 children and young adults with disabilities who had lived in closed children’s institutions, as well as parents of children with disabilities, institution staff, and disability rights experts and activists. Human Rights Watch also visited three institutions for children with disabilities.
Children and young adults who grew up in closed institutions for children with disabilities reported that staff beat them, forcibly administered sedatives to punish or control them, and forced them to take care of younger children.
According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, Kazakhstan has 19 state institutions for children with mental health conditions and developmental disabilities. More than 2,000 children live in these institutions, though many have at least one living parent.
Staff confirmed that they use psychotropic drugs to sedate children and have sent children to psychiatric hospitals for behavior such as screaming, shouting, or refusing to follow staff directions. Such drugs are usually medically prescribed to treat schizophrenia, sleep disorders, and strong pain. The sedatives put children to sleep, in some cases for up to 24 hours.