State governments and Union Territories are to undertake massive awareness programs about leprosy about leprosy being curable. On Friday, the Supreme Court gave a directive to end the stigma and discrimination of leprosy patients.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes leprosy as a chronic infectious disease. It mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. Leprosy occurs at all ages and is very much curable.
Led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, the bench, “directed the governments to create awareness regarding free of cost treatment of leprosy.” The judgement read that, “there should not be any discrimination or isolation of leprosy patients in treatment and education.
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Speaking to the Policy Times, the Association for Leprosy Education Rehabilitation and Treatment (ALERT) – India, CEO Anthony Samy said the judgement was very much welcomed. “It is a good ruling, welcomed but extremely late. The public outcry is late.”
ALERT-India is a voluntary charitable organization. It has been working for over 3 decades to eradicate leprosy from India. The organization creates awareness about leprosy, assists in the disease’s detection and treatment, and in the rehabilitation process as well.
In a PIL, Social Activist and Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves alleged that leprosy “affects over 1.25 lakh people in the country, is still considered a social stigma due to the government’s apathy.”
It is further stated that “those afflicted with the disease are not allowed to have education, sanitary benefits, community-based rehabilitation as a result of which they are driven to streets and eventually turn to beg or compelled to live in so-called leprosy homes where they are treated as unpersons or aliens.”
In July, the bench had heard a PIL by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and gave the following directives:
- A separate wing be created to expand the spheres of awareness
- Specific programmes are aired on the All India Radio and Doordarshan at the Central and State levels to educate the public that leprosy is non-communicable
- Hospitals shall not refuse treatment
- Administer the first injection under the Multi-Drug Therapy
- The holistic approach to awareness and campaigns
- State governments to take steps for rehabilitation of persons who are suffering(ed) from leprosy
“A relief is also sought to issue the mandamus to all the schools in the country not to discriminate against children from leprosy-affected families and to provide them free education.”
Leprosy is an ongoing battle as the stigma that has been attached it to has been for more than a century. Moreover, many aspects such as cultural and societal had made it worse. The people should know and understand that leprosy is curable.