People with Disabilities in Mexico Underrepresented in Politics

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2021 Human Rights Watch Marca Bristo Fellow Bryan Russell campaigning at San Martin Plaza in Lima, Peru, December 13, 2019. Russell, who ran twice for Congress in Peru, is now an advocate for the political rights of people with disabilities.
© 2019 AP Photo/Martin Mejia, file

Today the Mexican Senate is holding its first ever hearing for people with disabilities. Bryan Russell, who has run for parliament in his home country of Peru, gave pre-recorded testimony on the need for inclusion of people with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, in government and politics in Mexico. “I have run twice for Congress in my home country. I didn´t win, but I continue advocating for people with intellectual disabilities’ right to be selected as candidates for elected office,” he said. Russell also has an intellectual disability.

The hearing was organized by the Senate to promote political participation of people with disabilities, raise awareness on the rights of people with disabilities in public and private institutions, and strengthen the country’s legal framework and public policies with respect to their rights.

There are roughly 1,175,000 people with intellectual disabilities living in Mexico. Unlike other countries, Mexico has no restrictions against people with intellectual disabilities voting or standing for election. However, they have had little to no visibility in politics. Political parties and representative bodies, such as the Senate, Congress, and municipal councils, have done little to engage them and ensure their equal participation in running for political office.

Bryan Russell is the recipient of Human Rights Watch’s 2021 Marca Bristo fellowship, awarded annually to honor emerging activists for their courageous leadership in disability rights and provide them with tools to enhance their advocacy. As part of his fellowship, Russell plans to collaborate with other Mexican advocates with disabilities to promote institutional reform for political institutions and parties and build an agenda to increase political representation for people with intellectual disabilities in Mexico.

Mexico has an obligation under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure people with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, and encourage their participation. They should be afforded every opportunity to vote and be elected.

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