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Ending stigma against leprosy affected people

Jan 30, 2018

India hosts ‘Global Appeal 2018’ to end stigma against people affected by Leprosy.

New Delhi: The 13th Global Appeal was held in New Delhi today, which is being endorsed and supported by 91 Member National Assemblies of Disabled Peoples’ International pleading to end the discrimination and integrating people affected by disability into the larger disability movement worldwide.

In India, the Law Commission took up the study of amending/repealing laws that are discriminatory towards people affected by Leprosy. After a series of meetings and deliberations, the Law Commission of India finalized its Report No. 256 titled, “Leprosy Affected Persons and the Laws applicable to them”. It not only recommended repealing and amending some discriminatory laws, but also framing a new comprehensive legislation dealing with all aspects of rights of persons affected by Leprosy and their family members, “Elimination of Discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy (EDPAL) Bill, 2015”.

“This was in April 2015 and it seems that not much has happened since then. Neither have the laws been repealed nor the EDPAL Bill has been introduced in Parliament,” said Disabled People’s International Global Chair, Javed Abidi.It is unfortunate that the pace of the progress has been so slow. In spite of a clear recommendation by the Law Commission, it is going to be 3 years now.”

The Special Marriage Act 1954 and almost all Personal Laws contain discriminatory provisions against people affected by Leprosy.

Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act 2000, Motor Vehicles Act 1988, The Railways Act 1989, Bombay Municipal Corporation Act 1888, The Industrial Disputes Act 1947, various Beggary Laws and The Life Insurance Corporation Act 1956.

“They all have discriminatory provisions that not only perpetuate stigma but also lead to the denial of basic human rights of people affected by Leprosy,” Abidi added.

The EDPAL Bill not only includes specific provisions for repeal and amendments, but it also addresses the specific problems of people living in Leprosy colonies with respect to their ownership of the land.

The Bill has provisions to ensure non-discrimination of persons affected by Leprosy by any person or any public or private establishment.

The Bill has provisions for the government to undertake affirmative action in the following areas: Health, Ownership of property, Social Welfare, Education, Employment, etc.

“Even within the disability community, there are the haves and the have nots. Blind, orthopedic disabled, and deaf are the stronger disabilities whereas disabled people affected by Leprosy or say Hemophilia or Thalassamia or Acid Attack are not even a part of the mainstream disability discourse,” Abidi added.

In order to counter this deep rooted stigma and discrimination against people affected by Leprosy and their families which is further strengthened by draconian and obsolete laws that are unfortunately, still prevalent in many parts of the world, global initiatives such as the Global Appeal has been taken up annually by The Nippon Foundation (TNF) since 2006. Led by Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman, TNF who is also the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination since 2001 and the Japanese Government Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of Persons Affected by Leprosy since 2006, the Global Appeal aims to raise awareness on the issue and draw support of world leaders, representatives of international institutions and the public in general.

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