‘Leprosy must not continue to be a ground for divorce’

Leprosy must not continue to be a ground for divorce noted the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) stating that this disease is now fully curable, and that the archaic laws relating to leprosy must be relooked at

Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest diseases with India accounting for over 60% of the annual new cases of leprosy and a home to around 800 self-settled leprosy colonies.

World Health Organisations (WHO) data reveals that in 2016, a total of 2,14,783 cases of leprosy were reported worldwide. There were 18,000 child cases and 12,437 cases who were already suffering from serious disabilities at the time of diagnosis. India had 1,35,485 cases.

Still face discrimination

“While recognised as a disability under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995, and being completely curable, persons affected by leprosy continue to face discrimination not only from the larger society but also the disability sector itself,” noted a release issued by the NCPEDP.

India’s archaic laws need to be changed if this has to happen said the NCPEDP.

The release noted that there are currently 119 provisions across various Acts passed by the Central and State governments that continue to discriminate against people affected by leprosy (PAL).

These are also directly in contrast with the provisions of the Rights of Person with Disabilities Act 2016, that mandates non-discrimination and equality for all irrespective of disability.

Push to repeal provisions

“These 119 provisions not only violate the RPWD Act but also Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 14 protects the right to equality of all persons, Article 19 protects the freedom of citizens to move freely throughout the territory of India and practise any profession, occupation, trade or carry on any business, while Article 21 protects the right to life and dignity of all persons. It is to give momentum to this discourse that we are organising a special consultation on the issue as part of the larger national disability consultation being organised by us on July 19 and 20 and we hope the sector will come together as a collective force to push for repealing of these provisions,” said Som Mittal of the NCPEDP.

The NCPEDP has now constituted a core group on leprosy consisting of persons affected by leprosy, disability sector leaders, lawyers and activists and has also thrown its weight behind Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, which has filed a civil writ petition asking the Supreme Court of India to declare these provisions as unconstitutional because they discriminate against persons affected by leprosy.

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