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Leprosy in India

Leprosy in India

Omitting Leprosy as a ground for Divorce: Lok Sabha passes Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill
The legislations so amended by the Bill include the
• Divorce Act, 1869;
• the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939
• the Special Marriage Act, 1954;
• the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and
• the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
Other recommendation for amendment of the bill :
• National Human Rights Commission recommended amendments in certain personal laws and other legislations.
• In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’, which was signed and ratified by India.
• Law Commission of India in its 256th Report recommended the elimination of discrimination against people affected by the disease.
Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution

Basics about Leprosy:
• Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases known to man. East Africa is the more likely place of origin of leprosy.
• Leprosy also known as Hansen’s disease (HD), is a chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis.
• Leprosy is not highly infectious. It is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.
• Untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. It usually affects the skin and peripheral nerves. The mode of transmission of leprosy is still not known.
• In 1982 multi drug therapy (MDT) consisting of Rifampicin, Clofazimine and Dapsone were identified as cure for leprosy on recommendation of WHO came into use.
• 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.

• India is home to largest number of leprosy patients
• India accounts for 60% of new cases of leprosy worldwide.
• Leprosy patients cannot run for elections
• Leprosy patients cannot obtain driving license
• According to National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP), a centrally-sponsored scheme, India achieved the goal of elimination of leprosy as a public health problem, defined as less than 1 case per 10,000 population till December, 2005
• Mahatma Gandhi did lot of work for upliftment of people effected with leprosy.

Issues with leprosy in India
• Persisting discrimination against people affected by leprosy.
o There is lots of myths, socio-cultural beliefs, and the stigma attached to leprosy
• Lack of awareness about its cure
• Presence of obsolete laws
o There are a total of 295 obsolete laws, including an 1898 Act which discriminates against leprosy affected people.
o Hindu Marriage Act considers leprosy a ground for divorce.
• Many employers terminate the employment of persons under Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
• Many States in India prohibit leprosy patients from running in local elections and deny them employment privileges and benefits.

Way forward
• There is a nationwide survey to get an estimate of the number of unaccounted leprosy patients
• In India Most often the first lesion to appear is a skin patch and patients often seek help or are referred to a dermatologist. So dermatologist should be trained diagnose and treat leprosy including its complications
• The social marketing approach has much potential in improving community health education program and patient services.
• Monitoring of drug resistance in leprosy is need special importance.
• Long-standing stigma associated with Leprosy and the archaic laws applicable to them needs to be removed.
• Government, NGOs and private agencies need to work together.
• Continued training, skill development and best practice needs to be evolved to provide quality diagnosis and treatment of leprosy.

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