Laws from the British Raj in India to be repealed to protect the rights of people affected by leprosy

During the British Raj in India, numerous laws were introduced that isolated and discriminated against people affected by leprosy.

Today, a Private Members’ Bill on the issue of leprosy was introduced in India’s Parliament by Mr K.T.S. Tulsi MP to repeal discriminatory legislation and enshrine in law the human rights of people affected by this ancient disease.

This momentous Bill addresses the crucial issue of discrimination and exclusion of persons affected by leprosy and of their family members on the grounds of leprosy. Although a cure has been available since the early 1980s and it is an easily treatable condition, the discrimination against persons affected by it continues both in law and practice.

India has over half of the world’s leprosy cases and there are 119 known laws in India, including civil and criminal, that have discriminatory provisions against persons affected by leprosy on sole grounds of the disease. These include leprosy as a ground for divorce; denial of maintenance, rights of movement, rights to political participation, right to work; and provision for segregation.

The Rights of Persons Affected by Leprosy and Members of Their Family Bill 2017 introduced today, aims to address deep-rooted stigma and discrimination and its negative impact on the social, economic and cultural lives of persons affected by leprosy and members of their families.

The Bill also provides for welfare measures for achieving their holistic development and inclusion.

Mr K.T.S. Tulsi’s office worked in close coordination with The Leprosy Mission in drafting the present Bill. The Leprosy Mission is the largest leprosy-focused, non governmental organisation in India, operational in nine states. It addresses healthcare, education, sustainable livelihoods, community development, advocacy, research and training of those affected by the disease.

Photo: Ruth Towell/The Leprosy Mission