That the European Court of Human Rights considers that people with Down’s syndrome should not be shown as happy and normal could be a bad joke in a dystopian world—were it not for the fact that it is real. It happened on September 1 of this year.
Indeed, this Court which, according to its name and office, is the final guardian of the fundamental rights of the person, seems not to consider Down’s people as human, or at least as subjects of law. The video they banned is a wonderful production addressed to a future mother of a Down’s child. The argument used by the Court of some Human Rights is that such an approach can make women feel guilty if they decide not to continue with the pregnancy, when they knew that the child could be born with this genetic alteration.
The history of this decision is well explained in several places, so I will not dwell on it. It frightens me to see how a court that was born—like others—from the experience of the terrible world wars, in particular, from the terrible violations of human rights, exterminations and systematic massacres perpetrated by the Nazi ideology, is able a few decades later to differentiate between people who deserve to be treated and shown as such and people who do not.
The yellow stars have been replaced by the diagnosis of Trisomy 21 but, ultimately, the result is the same: they are not considered persons. They do not deserve to be shown as those who do meet “their standards”. They do not deserve to be happy. They cannot, following the arguments of the French Higher Audiovisual Council, supported by the ECHR, remind us that we all have defects, even if we do not have slanted eyes.
They must be prevented from reminding us in a monochromatic and “Down’s syndrome free” society that makes up the generation that consumes the most antidepressants, with the highest suicide rate, and in which the largest number of young people under twenty years of age consider themselves unhappy.
It has taken us less than a hundred years to return to restricted rights; that there are those who decide who should and who should not live, who are or are not allowed to be happy.
Today it is the Down’s people who cannot be happy: tomorrow it may be the deaf, the bald, the slightly overweight, or families with children, or the terminally ill, or those taking drugs for anxiety, who not allowed to be happy, because it is considered that they may make those without children or those with depression feel guilty.
In the past, discrimination was based on skin color, accent or region of origin; today it is based on a—sometimes even erroneous—prenatal test.
Today, in a first world in which these people—who in the past would often never leave their homes—can finish a university course, work, live alone, compete in sports worldwide, are fashion models, even help to take care of their families, they want to lock them up again simply because they are different. Because they show that yes, the variety in the world is a richness; that they too, like you and me, can make this world better.
THE AUTHOR: Maria José AtienzaEditor in Chief at Omnes. Graduate in Communications, with more than 15 years of experience in Church communications. She has collaborated in media such as COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) and RNE (Radio Nacional de España).