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Erich Kofmel
Works at Autistic Minority International
Attended University of Sussex
Lives in Geneva
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Press Release
 
Organizations in several countries reject decision of the Colombian Constitutional Court allowing for sterilization of minors with disabilities without their consent.
 
Bogota, Colombia, March 18, 2014. On March 11th, the Colombian Constitutional Court validated the practice of surgical sterilization of minors with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities after considering a constitutional challenge to article 7 of Law 1412 of 2010, which prohibited the practice of surgical sterilization for contraceptive purposes on minors in all cases. (Decision C-133/14 – Press Release No. 08)
 
Although the Constitutional Court declared article 7 constitutional, it stated that “when it comes to minors with disabilities for whom there is a proven impossibility to give consent in the future to undergo sterilization procedures, the parents, or in any case, the legal guardian, must request judicial authorization to allow surgical sterilization. In that sense, previous case law has considered that a person that does not have the capacity to understand what sterilization is or its consequences, as it is the case of mental disabilities, she or he will hardly be in a place to understand the responsibility attached to the exercise of maternity or paternity and therefore, the implications of being able to or not to procreate”.  The Court added: “The decision to undergo surgical sterilization ensures more dignified living conditions for those who cannot make decisions related to the exercise of their reproductive freedom and that may be exposed to forced pregnancies in detriment of their dignity and personal integrity.” Justices Luis Guillermo Guerrero and Luis Ernesto Vargas will draft concurring opinions because they consider that such interpretation goes against applicable international human rights standards.
 
Various national and international organizations firmly rejected the statements of the Constitutional Court. “Sterilization does not protect anybody from sexual violence and in fact it is a risk factor. With this decision the Court disregarded its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, ratified by Colombia. The Convention requires that States recognize people with disabilities' full legal capacity to make their own decisions and that they provide the necessary supports to do so”, said Andrea Parra, Director of the Action Program for Equality and Social Inclusion (PAIIS) of the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. “The Convention specifically protects people with disabilities' right to maintain their fertility, which historically has been controlled and denied.The Convention recognizes that all the people, regardless of their disability, have will and preferences and the State must recognize and respect them. Validating a third party signature of the consent form to the procedure is forced sterilization”, Parra added.
 
Organizations from Australia, Argentina, Canada, the United States, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Kingdom, as well as international organizations rejected the decision. According to Human Rights Watch, “Women and girls with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to forced sterilizations performed under the auspices of legitimate medical care or the consent of others in their name.(…) In many of the cases that come before the courts, the motivation for sterilization is not malevolent or ill-intentioned. (…) Regardless, forced sterilization is an act of violence, a form of social control, and a violation of the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
 
The International Federation of Gynechology and Obstretics (FIGO) in its guidelines on female sterilization states that “Only women themselves can give ethically valid consent to their own sterilization. Family members including husbands, parents, legal guardians, medical practitioners and, for instance, government or other public officers, cannot consent on any woman’s or girl’s behalf.”
 
Doctor Claudia Malacrida, sociologist and professor at the University of Lethbridge in Canada, expert in eugenic practices said: “Involuntary sterilization is not the solution for disabled people's sexuality. Rather, education, support and opportunities to engage and learn, facilitate disabled people's emotional, sexual and reproductive lives. Involuntary sterilization can also often have the effect of hiding the outcomes of sexual abuse; it is NOT a way of protecting disabled people from abuse or unwanted sexual contact, but in fact can make them more vulnerable”.
 
Stephanie Ortoleva, from international NGO Women Enabled, Inc. states: “Forced non-consensual sterilization of women and girls with disabilities cannot be tolerated as it not only violates our core human rights, but also our physical and mental health.  Empowering others to make such decisions for women and girls with disabilities is an unacceptable form of violence and control”.
 
Erich Kofmel from Autistic Minority International added: “What is particularly troubling to us is the uncertain scope of the court's decision. Many persons with so-called mental disabilities, for example those on the autism spectrum, may be falsly thought of as incapable of exercising their sexual and reproductive rights, now or in the future, and unjustly judged due to a lack of knowledge about their condition."
 
The decision not only disregards the UN Disability Convention, it also ignores the recommendations made to Colombia by the Committee to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which specifically told Colombia to amend its regulatory framework to guarantee that sterilization is conducted with the free and informed consent of women with disabilities.
 
This and other aspects related to violations of sexual and reproductive rights of people with disabilities in Colombia will be presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human rights during the upcoming thematic hearing on the issue, which will take place on March 24th in Washington, D.C., United States.
 
Colombia has the international obligation to adjust its laws, judicial decisions, policies and practices to the mandates of the UN Convention on Disability and to guarantee the autonomy and legal capacity of all people with disabilities as recognized by Law 1618 of 2013.
 
Signatory Organizations:
Colombia:
Action Program for Equality and Social Inclusion (PAIIS), Universidad de los Andes
Asociación Colombiana de Síndrome de Down (ASDOWN)
Liga Colombiana de Autismo (LICA)
Fundamental Colombia
Other countries:
Autistic Minority International (International)
Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University (United States)
Canadian Association of the Deaf (Canada)
Eugenics and Newgenics Research Project, Universidad de Lethbridge (Canada)
Center for Reproductive Rights (International)
Centro Estratégico de Impacto Social – CEIS (Mexico)
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales – CELS (Argentina)
Clínica Jurídica de Acciones de Interés Público, sección Discapacidad de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru. (Peru)
Clínica Jurídica del Programa Universitario de Derechos Humanos de la UNAM (Mexico)
Disability Rights International –DRI (International)
Documenta, análisis y acción para la justicia social a.c. (Mexico)
Human Rights Watch (International)
Impact Litigation Project, American University (United States)
International Disability Alliance (International)
International Network of Women with Disabilities (International)
Open Society Foundations (International)
Proyecto de Litigio de Alto Impacto, American University (Estados Unidos)
Respectful Interfaces (Estados Unidos)
School of Health, Policy and Management, Critical Disability Studies, York University (Canada)
Sisters of Frida (United Kingdom)
Sociedad y Discapacidad (Peru)
Women Enabled, Inc. (International)
Women with Disabilities Australia (Australia)
Women with Disabilities India Network (India)
 
For more information contact:
Andrea Parra
Programa de Acción por la Igualdad y la Inclusión Social (PAIIS)
Universidad de los Andes.
Ph: +5713394949 ext 3157 – +573136726231
paiis@uniandes.edu.co
 
Sources:
Constitutional Court of Colombia – Press Release No. 08 – March 11, 2014: http://goo.gl/pTKohf
UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities: http://goo.gl/P72C2s
Recommendations to Colombia by the CEDAW Committee, October 2013, par. 30(e): http://goo.gl/94Yjpz
International Federation on Gynechology and Obstetrics. Guidelines on Female Sterilization, 2011: http://goo.gl/Y8xTPn
Human Rights Watch Report on Sterilization of Women and Girls with Disabilities: http://goo.gl/0ZX0Bi
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This should be a must-read for all parents of autistic children, not just the feminists.
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Famous autistics: In 2013, both Daryl Hannah and Susan Boyle made public that they are on the autism spectrum. Dan Aykroyd gave an interview about his Asperger's diagnosis, too. Hopefully, this means that it will become easier for all those of us who were only diagnosed as adults to come out of hiding.
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The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), one of the human rights treaty bodies, invites all interested stakeholders to comment on two initial Draft General Comments, adopted in September 2013 during the Committee's 10th session: Draft General Comment on Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Recognition before the Law) and Draft General Comment on article 9 of the Convention (Accessibility).

These initial drafts are the outcome of an extensive consultation process, which has involved a Day of General Discussion on each subject as well as a high number of submissions from persons with disabilities, disabled people's organizations (DPOs), national human rights institutions, and other stakeholders. The resulting initial drafts, prepared incorporating the various perspectives from all contributions, are now available for comment.

Member states, national human rights institutions and independent monitoring mechanisms under art. 33.2 of the Convention, DPOs and persons with disabilities, NGOs, research institutions, and academics are invited to provide their comments in writing to: crpd@ohchr.org

If the submission relates to the draft General Comment No. 1 (2013) on Equal Recognition before the Law, the subject matter of the e-mail should indicate: Submission related to the Draft General Comment No. 1 on Article 12.

If the submission relates to the draft General Comment No. 2 (2013) on Accessibility, the subject matter of the e-mail should indicate: Submission related to the Draft General Comment No. 2 on Article 9.

All submissions should be in one of the languages of the CRPD secretariat, English, French, or Spanish, be no more than 6 pages long (in the case of coalitions of DPOs or NGOs submissions may be 12 pages long), be sent in Word 97-2003 format, and suggest possible recommendations to facilitate the work of the Committee.

Comments must be submitted by 31 January 2014. Strict respect for this deadline will ensure the Committee's attention to the submitted documents.

All submissions will be posted on the webpage dedicated to the Draft General Comments. Comments will be taken into account in updating the Draft General Comments, which will be considered by the CRPD at its next session in April 2014.

Only English versions of the Draft General Comments are currently available for download.

Draft General Comment on Article 12 on Equal Recognition before the Law:

www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CRPD/GC/DGCArticle12.doc

Draft General Comment on Article 9 on Accessibility:

www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CRPD/GC/DGCArticle9.doc

Autistic Minority International will be preparing submissions on both Draft General Comments. We strongly encourage other autism self-advocacy organizations to do the same. To discuss and exchange views, or if you are interested in a joint submission with us, please contact: geneva@autisticminority.org
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Many autistics live in poverty.

In preparation of a forthcoming thematic report to the 26th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014, the UN's Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, invites civil society organizations, including autistic self-advocacy groups from anywhere in the world and disabled people's organizations, to submit contributions on the human rights impact of fiscal and tax policy.

Please refer to the questionnaire below, available in English, French, or Spanish, for more details. It is not necessary to reply in full to all the questions. Partial responses are also welcome and will be helpful in collecting views of civil society on policies and practices in various countries.

English:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1H3uk028y4T09FC216u8s7hcOcujHIrSP27jGyiAKL0w/edit

Français:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6XUJ0SW4C68emQtY0o0X0E2MTg/edit

Español:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6XUJ0SW4C68UjVCVWoydWZwaXc/edit

The Special Rapporteur also welcomes the submission of research studies or reports on this topic, particularly those examining how fiscal and tax policies impact the human rights of persons living in poverty.

Please send your contributions, in English, Spanish, or French, as a Word document, PDF, or in a compatible format no later than 2 December 2013 to: srextremepoverty@ohchr.org

Autistic Minority International will be glad to assist any national or local autism self-advocacy groups who might wish to respond. Please contact: geneva@autisticminority.org
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Been diagnosed with Asperger's

On 13 May 2013 I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. The diagnosis was done at a university clinic and by a doctor specializing in autism in adults that weren't diagnosed as children (because Asperger's wasn't known as well back then).

I decided to make this information public, just as I've always been open about being gay.
 
Asperger's, in my case, means that I have little empathy and cannot make emotional connections with other people. It seems I am only able to make connections by way of intellectual stimuli, and few people are able to provide those (my IQ was measured at 145 during the Asperger's assessment).
 
In most situations I am brutally honest, but as someone living with Asperger's one also learns to lie in order to cover up one's shortcomings and appear "normal".
 
People who have found me strange or weird, arrogant or aloof in the past may find this illuminating. I know I did. I am sorry if because of Asperger's I hurt someone in ways that I still don't understand. I never set out to hurt anyone on purpose, but survival is hard if one has no social net to fall back on.
 
The fact that I have no friends, and no one to defend me, always attracted bullies. Asperger's meant that I couldn't protect myself either.
 
While throughout my life I went to extreme lengths, and way out of my autistic comfort zone, trying to live up to my own and other people's expectations, I admittedly could not but fall short. I could not be more sociable, I could not be more flexible, I needed time and space to myself to recharge, and so on.

There is plenty of information about Asperger's online, but if you're really interested, just ask.
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Believe dietary food prinicples in chinese medecine can help  a lot.
I would call a university teacher at middlesex university for more info.
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Next week (4-5 February 2014) +Autistic Minority International will be participating in a workshop on “The Future of Social Housing: Environmental and Social Challenges and the Way Forward”, organized in Geneva by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) in cooperation with the European Federation of Public, Cooperative and Social Housing. Any input on social housing issues affecting autistics, and received preferably prior to the workshop, will be greatly appreciated. Contact: geneva@autisticminority.org
 
Autistic Minority International was also accredited to the following five UN system and related meetings and conferences, all taking place in Geneva: 2013 United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights (2-4 December 2013) and Sixth Session of the Forum on Minority Issues (26-27 November 2013), both under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC); Panel Discussions on Minority Issues on occasion of the launching of the OHCHR publication “Promoting and Protecting Minority Rights – A Guide for Advocates”, organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (28 November 2013); Third Health Promotion Forum “Building Capacity for Health Promotion: Inter-sectoral Partnerships between Civil Society and Government” of the Alliance for Health Promotion, organized at the World Health Organization in collaboration with the WHO and the University of Geneva (29 November 2013); and Sixth High-level Symposium on Global Health Diplomacy “Health Diplomacy Meets Science Diplomacy”, organized by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in cooperation with the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (12 November 2013).
 
For a regularly updated list of conferences we took part in as well as links to statements we made orally at or submitted in writing to such conferences, please visit:
 
www.autisticminority.org/united-nations-conferences
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Stripping for autism: The players of Geneva-Servette Hockey Club (GSHC) took off their kit to raise funds for the local autism parents' organization, Autisme Genève. The resulting calendar for 2014 can be ordered from the club's website (only available in French):

http://www.gshc.ch/fr/Club/Calendrier.html#ScrollPosition_60
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  • Autistic Minority International
    President, 2013 - present
    Autistic Minority International is the first and only autism self-advocacy organization active at the global political level. The NGO, founded as a non-profit association under Swiss law in 2013 and headquartered in Geneva, aims to advance the interests of autistics worldwide at and through the United Nations, World Health Organization, human rights treaty bodies, and other international organizations. We believe that autistic self-advocacy is about more than disability rights. Estimated at one percent of the world's population, or seventy million people, autistics deserve the same protection and rights the international community affords to ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities as well as indigenous peoples. There is an autistic minority in every country on Earth. Only minority status will put an end to discrimination and marginalization and permit all of us to be open about our condition without fear of repercussions. Autism is a distinct culture and identity. The only one we know. For that reason, we seek to network autism self-advocacy organizations worldwide and act as a focal point for capacity building and the exchange of best practice on how to engage governments at the national, regional, and local level. We promote and assist in the participation of national and local self-advocacy groups at UN conferences and in UN processes and mechanisms. Where no effective national self-advocacy organizations exist, we will establish such. We are open to collaboration with UN member states, the UN system, the wider NGO community, autism charities run by non-autistics, researchers particularly in the social sciences and international law, the private sector, and individuals with a view to shaping global priorities and lifting our concerns onto the UN's agenda.
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Paris - Brighton - London - Johannesburg - Dakar - Bern - Fribourg
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Autistic Minority International 1200 Geneva Switzerland
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Advancing autism self-advocacy worldwide
Introduction
I am the Founder and President of Autistic Minority International (www.autisticminority.org). Like many, I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome only as an adult, at age 38. A lifetime of struggle had finally found an explanation.

A national of Switzerland by birth, I hold Masters degrees in Public and Development Management, with specialization in Governance and Public Policy (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg), and Roman Catholic Theology (St Augustine College of South Africa) as well as a Postgraduate Certificate in Comparative and Cross-Cultural Research Methods (University of Sussex).

Following doctoral studies in Social and Political Thought at the University of Sussex and Sciences Po/The Institute of Political Studies in Paris, I have been invited to present my research at institutions as diverse as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Tehran, the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, the London School of Economics, the European University Institute in Florence, the European Science Foundation, the European Consortium for Political Research, the American Political Science Association, and the World International Studies Committee, where I was an invited speaker in the opening plenary on "Global Values" at the triennial Global International Studies Conference in 2008.

The editor of a volume on "Anti-Democratic Thought" (Imprint Academic, 2008), I accepted invitations to serve as referee for the journals "Political Studies", "Philosophy and Rhetoric", "International Political Science Review", and "European Journal of Development Research".

Despite a biography as non-linear and beset by adversity as that of almost all autistics, I bring to the task many years of professional experience in administration and finance, general and project management in the private, public and non-governmental sectors in Europe and Africa. Most recently, I was Managing Director of a research centre on the individual and society I co-founded in the UK in 2006.

I am not only autistic, but also morbidly obese and gay. I have an IQ of 145. Politics has been a special interest of mine for twenty-five years. I volunteered and was politically active in five countries and previously held office and leadership positions at the local, regional, national, European, and global level.
Education
  • University of Sussex
    Doctoral student, Social and Political Thought, 2005 - 2009
  • Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris
    International Doctoral Programme, Political Thought, 2007 - 2008
  • University of Sussex
    Postgraduate Certificate, Comparative and Cross-Cultural Research Methods, 2006 - 2007
  • St Augustine College of South Africa
    Master of Philosophy, Roman Catholic Theology, 2004 - 2007
  • University of the Witwatersrand
    Master of Management, Public and Development Management (P&DM), 2003 - 2004
  • Université de Fribourg/Universität Freiburg
    Diploma student, Roman Catholic Theology, 1996 - 1999
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