We can't fight leprosy until we abolish these obsolete laws
Swati Chandra | May 20, 2016
A couple of days back, Odisha assembly passed its Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Bill permitting leprosy patients to contest Panchayat polls. The polls are scheduled to be held in 2017.
With this, the state has abolished its 52-year-old law, which banished leprosy patients to contest polls, calling it “redundant”.
However, there are several existing Indian laws that are directly or indirectly discriminatory against leprosy patients and breed stigma about the disease.
Visiting a leprosy patients’ colony in Uttar Pradesh in 2012, I met a married couple who had been staying in the leper’s colony for eight years after being ostracized by their families. The man and the woman were divorced by their earlier partners [in West Bengal] because they had leprosy. The woman's husband left her even after her condition was cured.
[Certain provisions under the Hindu Marriage Act, Muslim Marriage Act, the Indian Divorce Act, Indian Christian Marriage Act, the Special Marriage Act are directly discriminatory against leprosy affected people. These laws consider leprosy to be an ‘incurable and virulent’ disease. An infection from leprosy for not less than two years, under these legislations, serves as a legitimate ground for divorce or separation between spouses.]
The woman appeared as normal and healthy as any other woman. She wasn’t suffering from any disabilities. Her hands and feet were not disfigured. She was a leprosy cured person. But on facing the stigma and injustice of having leprosy earlier, she preferred a leper’s colony to stay in. “I prefer staying in this colony because I don’t face discrimination here. All people who stay here are just like me. All have faced similar discrimination,” she told me.
There are lakhs of leprosy patients in our country who are silently suffering the discrimination and stigma of a disease which they have battled strongly. Moreover, the legal system in our country supports this discrimination.
India, as UN general assembly member, has passed the resolution on the elimination of leprosy and signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, the government has taken no action to modify the existing leprosy laws which discriminate against persons affected by the disease, which is now curable with scientific advancement.
In 2015, Law Commission of India submitted a report and draft bill called ‘eliminating discrimination against persons affected by leprosy’ suggesting a ban on the obsolete laws and prohibit discrimination.
Here is a list of some of these laws:
Far away in the other world, she must be weeping seeing the flames of fire she lit for justice slowly fading. On December 16, 2012, the 23-year-old Delhi woman, better known as Nirbhaya now, was brutally raped. She eventually succumbed to her injuries, but not before triggering a storm acorss the count
The rise in income inequality has been gradual in India, said the World Inequality Report which noted that at the global level, inequality has risen sharply since 1980, despite strong growth in China. The report said that inequality within world regions varies greatly. In 2016, the share of
BHEL has successfully commissioned a 54 mega watt coal-fired captive power project in Indonesia. The project located at East Kalimantan in Indonesia has been set up by BHEL for PT Citra Kusuma Perdana (PT CKP) for its coal-mining operations. For the project, B
Have things changed five years after the Nirbhaya incident? I see Delhi as the capital of protest, not just capital of rape as it is often painted. In terms of legislation, in 2013 one-stop-centres were set up after the landmark report of Justice Verma Committee and Justice Usha Meh
The winter session of parliament is starting and I am confident that it will be productive session, said prime minister Narendra Modi on Friday. He hoped that there is “constructive debate and we come up with innovative solutions to our nation`s problems”. Speaking
When prime minister Narendra Modi dedicated Kalvari submarine to the nation, it was significant for more than one reason. Not only did the submarine enhance India’s capability as a blue water navy, it also highlighted Project 75 that focused on a major exercise to build six submarines.