This World Leprosy Day, Jan van Berkel, President of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP), has called for laws which discriminate against people affected by leprosy to be abolished.

ILEP’s 14 members, including Lepra, operate in 19 countries which have discriminatory laws in place. Discrimination may occur in employment, marriage, the use of public places including hotels and restaurants, and public transport.

In December 2010 the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a resolution (PDF) “Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members” 

This re-affirmed that
“persons affected by leprosy and their family members should be treated as individuals with dignity and are entitled to all human rights and fundamental freedoms under customary international law, relevant conventions and national constitutions and laws”

The resolution introduced new principles and guidelines for governments and other organisations.

Mr van Berkel comments:
In the four years since the UN resolution was adopted, some countries have repealed their laws and started public education campaigns to stop stigma against men, women and children affected by leprosy. However, there are other countries that continue to pass laws that discriminate against people affected by leprosy.

India, which accounted for 59% of newly diagnosed cases of leprosy in 2013, has at least 15 Acts discriminating against people affected by leprosy.

In October 2014, the Law Commission of India recommended the repeal of the Lepers Act of 1898.
The Act is unconstitutional for being violative of Article 14 of the Constitution because it legalises forcible segregation of people affected with leprosy.

The Act has already been repealed in some States and we look forward to its repeal countrywide.



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