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Taking a stand to free Yaska

Yaska is a woman with psychosocial disabilities who was institutionalised against her will in 2015. She is still segregated and has no say in any aspect of her life. The services claim this treatment is therapeutic, without realising that institutionalisation is a form of systemic violence against people with disabilities. The Associazione Diritti alla Follia (Rights to Madness Association), which supports Yaska and her family, is organising a demonstration – the fifth one – in front of the Court of Florence on 3 November. The request is always the same: free Yaska!

The banner with the inscription ‘Free Yaska’ was displayed in front of the Court of Florence on 23 March 2022, during the last demonstration organised to free Yaska from segregation.

If we need to give a starting date to the story of Yaska, it would be 4 August 2015. , Yaska is a woman with schizophrenia who is now 32 years old and lives in Florence. 4 August was the day Yaska was taken from her family and subjected to compulsory medical treatment (TSO) in the hospital. Since then, Yaska has never returned to her home. In fact, from the hospital, she was transferred to different facilities for people with psychosocial disabilities/mental health issues and declared unfit. In these facilities, Yaska suffered a systematic violation of her human rights in manifest contrast to countless provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ratified by Italy with Law 18/2009). The very fact that she still lives in segregation conflicts with her right “to choose, on an equal basis with others, her place of residence and where and with whom she lives” and not to be forced to live in a particular accommodation (Article 19 of the UN Convention).

We have dealt with Yaska’s case several times since February 2022 (read the following in-depth article and the texts reported at the bottom). Several proceedings were initiated against Yaska’s mother, Jeanette, in order to remove Yaska from the care of her family.

Initially ‘only’ three accusations were made: disturbing the peace, ill-treatment, and kidnapping. To those three, a charge of conspiracy to commit sexual assault was added. The institutions holding Yaska accused Jeanette of having instigated Fabio – Yaska’s boyfriend with whom she had been in a relationship for ten years – to rape her daughter. Fabio, in turn, was prosecuted for the crime of sexual violence. All this without ever asking Yaska’s opinion, who had always declared her consent to sexual relations with the young man, and who had clearly expressed her wish to continue the pregnancy that had resulted from that union. A will that was ignored by the services, by Yaska’s guardian, by the judge who ordered the termination of the pregnancy without the woman’s consent (the termination was carried out on 9 April 2019), and by the medical staff who lied to her about the procedure.

Both Fabio and Jeanette were acquitted of the charges of sexual assault and conspiracy to commit sexual assault on the grounds that ‘the fact does not exist’. Jeanette was also acquitted in the first instance of two other charges (those of disturbing the peace and ill-treatment) but was convicted of kidnapping, a sentence against which she appealed. Yet even this conviction raises some perplexity when one considers that the sentence imposed – 5 months imprisonment with mitigating circumstances – is decidedly light for the type of offence charged. The appeal hearing has been set for 3 November. If this charge fails, the last motive (or pretext?) that justified Yaska’s removal from his family’s care would also fall.

In recent years, Yaska, Jeanette and her family have been supported by the Right to Madness Association has organised several protest rallies at the various hearings in which Jeanette has been a defendant. Precisely to prevent attention from waning on Yaska’s case, the Association is organising another protest – the fifth – on the occasion of the appeal hearing in which Jeanette is charged with kidnapping. The action will be held front of the Court of Florence on 3 November 2022 at 11:30 AM: in the open space in front of the entrance (in Viale Alessandro Guidoni no. 61).

The  last demonstration held on 23 March ( the fourth), included the Rights to Madness Association, numerous citizens, the Citizens’ Committee for Human Rights (CCHR) and the Informare un’h centre of Peccioli. On that occasion, Yaska’s cause was also supported by the UILDM Nazionale (Italian Union for the Fight against Muscular Dystrophy) and the FISH (Italian Federation for Overcoming Handicaps).

Yaska is still institutionalised against her will. Despite her repeated requests she is prevented from meeting relatives and friends in person, and she is subject to legal “interdiction” even though this guardianship institution has been declared contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the Committee overseeing its implementation (CRPD). She has no say in any aspect of her life. The services claim that this treatment is therapeutic, without realising that institutionalisation is a form of systemic violence against persons with disabilities. A concept also reiterated in the ‘Guidelines on de-institutionalisation, including in emergencies‘ published by the UN Committee last September (read about it also on our pages). All this happens because in our legal system there are still institutions that instead of supporting persons with disabilities in their decisions allow third parties to take decisions in their place. If we are not prepared to put our change the institutions’ policies (interdiction, incapacitation and also the administration of support) we will not be able to prevent, nor will we be able to put an end in time to the many forms of systemic violence and discrimination to which Yaska and many other persons with disabilities are still exposed. Therefore, those who can attend the demonstration. Those who cannot join this cause and help give it visibility.

In conclusion, we cannot fail to note how there is a bitter irony in this whole affair. Jeanette is accused of kidnapping for having locked Yaska in her room for a few hours (which has not been proven). But the state has ‘kidnapped’ Yaska since 4 August 2015 and still has not released her – yet no one seems to think they must answer for it.

Simona Lancioni
Head of Informare un’h – Gabriele and Lorenzo Giuntinelli
Centre in Peccioli (Pisa)


Translation by Luisella Bosisio Fazzi.


Ultimo aggiornamento il 31 Ottobre 2022 da Simona