End leprosy discrimination laws ‘without delay’, UN rights expert urges  |

“It is time for all States concerned to make a choice: to keep such discriminatory laws against people affected by leprosy a violation of international human rights standards, or to abolish such discrimination in the immediate law”. speak Special Rapporteur on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy and their Family Members, Alice Cruz.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures, provided by 139 countries, including that for 2020, 127,558 new cases of leprosy were detected around the world – a 37% reduction in annual new cases.

And some countries are even reporting a drop of more than 50%.

However, as diagnosis and reporting have been affected by the COVID pandemic, the true number is likely to be much higher.

Although curable, if not detected and treated early, the disease can lead to irreversible impairment and disability.

Discrimination laws apply

India’s National Human Rights Commission has announced that there are currently 97 discriminatory laws against people affected by leprosy.

And while it has the highest number of cases, India is not alone in upholding discriminatory leprosy-related laws, with at least 30 other countries adopting them as well.

Ms. Cruz said that unfair laws – whether actively enforced or not – promote, authorize, and normalize substantive violations, especially against women.

“The mere existence of a law allowing divorce on the grounds of leprosy has a devastating impact on women, hindering their access to health care and justice,” the United Nations expert said in advance. World Leprosy Daymarked on Sunday.

“By formalizing harmful stereotypes as legal trademarks and normalizing humiliation and violence as permissible behaviors, such laws significantly affect livelihoods, excludes those affected by leprosy from political and civil participation, and adds to the neglect of the State towards this marginalized group”.

Framing wrong

The root cause of this legally discriminatory framework is closely linked with early modern medical misdiagnosis of leprosy. is a highly contagious disease, according to the Special Rapporteur.

Today, with multi-drug therapy, the disease is curable and over the past 20 years more than 16 million leprosy patients have been treated.

“Highlights, many existing discriminatory laws were enacted long after the discovery of a cure for leprosy in the 1950s.,” said Ms. Cruz.

“Some of these laws were enacted even in the first decades of the 21st century…[and] spanning the globe North and Global South”.

The UN expert called on countries to amend or repeal discriminatory laws, policies and customs and adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.

The special rapporteurs and independent experts appointed by the UN are based in Geneva Dong Nhan Quyen Association arrive check and report back on a particular human rights topic. The positions are honorary and professionals are not paid for their work.

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