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Leprosy, A Legitimate Ground For Divorce: Former Law Commission Chairman


India has about 10 million leprosy affected people, who need daily care and support but do not receive them. The laws too render these citizens helpless.

In a bid to shed light upon the social stigma associated with the disease and to spread awareness around it, NDTV Prime, in association with The Leprosy Mission Trust India and Novartis, the global healthcare company organised a special documentary screening on leprosy in the city.

“There are 14-16 laws in the country that actually have provisions that discriminate either directly or indirectly against the people with leprosy,” said Dr Sunil Anand, Executive Director, Leprosy Mission Trust, India.

Explaining these laws Justice Ajit Prakash Shah, former Chairman, Law Commission in the documentary said, “All these laws provide infection of leprosy for more than 2-3 years as a legitimate ground for dissolution of marriage.” The documentary also depicts that the law maintenance cost can be denied after separation due to leprosy contraction. Law Commission and Leprosy Mission Trust are fighiting against such discriminatory laws. The Law Commission came up with a draft bill called Eliminating Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy (EDPAL) Bill.

The documentary titled ‘The Unwanted’ stated that under the Disabilities Act, 1995, a leprosy affected person with disability does not qualify for jobs under the disability act.

There are about 7000 leprosy colonies in India where affected people have made their own settlements due to the social stigma around their disease.

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO), India has reported a steady decline in the number of people with leprosy. A global report from 2015 however states that 60% of the 2,12,000 people detected with leprosy were from India. WHO norms state that leprosy is eliminated only if the prevalence of the disease is less than one case per 10,000 population, a status which India had achieved in 2005. However, the next step is to eradicate this disease from roots and have zero cases reported.

‘The Unwanted’ aimed to shed light onto the sensitive topic and address the stories of those with Leprosy that range from abandonment, discrimination, pain to physical deformation. It also highlighted the need to render human service to those in need and in the process, help create ways to eradicate the spread of the disease.

The documentary screening was hosted in order to draw attention to the state of leprosy-affected people by creating a conversation around the subject. Guests like KTS Tulsi, Member of Parliament and Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court; Jayashree P Kunju, CA and CEO at iBAS Consulting; Stuti Kakkar, Head of Child Rights Panel by Women and Child Development Ministry; Raghu Rai, renowned photographer among others were present during the screening.

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The CSR Journal Team