In Search of Legal Capacity: Law, Guardianship, and Supported Decision-Making in Intellectually Disabled People's Lives in Turkey

Lead Research Organisation: Keele University
Department Name: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences


This project proposes an innovative socio-legal study of the regime of decision-making by and with intellectually disabled people in Turkey. Since its adoption in 2006, Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has posed a major challenge for law and society: how to abolish substituted decision-making regimes and support intellectually disabled people to enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others, while preventing exploitation, abuse and violence. Most disability law scholarship today grapples with the challenges of bringing domestic capacity laws into line with the rights enshrined in the CRPD, however, limitations remain. Scholarly conversation on legal capacity tends to largely focus on formal law, overlooking the crucial domain of the everyday and intensifying intellectually disabled people's exclusion from academic, legal and policy discussions on their own lives. Furthermore, research conducted in the Global North takes precedence over the experiences, needs and perspectives of individuals and communities of the Global South. As a result of this double marginalisation, we know even less about the actual lives and struggles of intellectually disabled people in the Global South.

This research seeks to fill these significant gaps by constituting the first in-depth examination of intellectually disabled people's legal capacity in everyday life in Turkey and the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. In particular, it will examine how the law, guardianship and supported decision-making interact and impact intellectually disabled people's everyday experiences, at the intersections of the global aspirations of the CRPD and local understandings and practices around 'capacity' in Turkey. Research data will include legislation and policy documents; semi-structured interviews with professionals; narrative interviews with families; and photo-diary interviews with intellectually disabled people. The fresh empirical insights that the project generates via its original methodology in an under-studied context will enable to challenge top-down definitions of 'capacity' and lead to new conceptualisations from below, helping develop contextualised, practical approaches to supported decision-making. Turkey's positioning as a literal and symbolical bridge between the 'West' and the 'East' makes it a very suitable context to address the social and legal dynamics underlying constructions of intellectually disabled people's 'capacity' and will allow the project to offer a unique, yet cross-culturally relevant contribution towards their full enjoyment of the right to legal capacity. The contribution of the project will be therefore regional, methodological and conceptual, as well as practical.

With a view of co-production of knowledge and impact, the project will actively engage stakeholder communities at every stage. The Association of Women with Disabilities, a disability rights organisation run by disabled women in Turkey, is a Project Partner. Their inputs have shaped the project design and will inform and support the co-production of knowledge throughout the research cycle. Regular meetings with the Project Partner and other stakeholder groups will be key in the enhancement of mutually beneficial, strong relationships and translation of findings for different user communities. Research outputs will be distributed via web resources, an end of project workshop and findings report with its easy read version, a knowledge exchange event, a policy brief, a project journey video, and an online exhibition that will feature artwork produced by intellectually disabled participants. Offering evidence-based recommendations for policy and practical forms of support, the project will contribute to closing the gap between intellectually disabled people and law, policy, and scholarship at national and international levels, and ultimately to their empowerment to achieve self-determination.


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