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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: Landmark Vote in Geneva

Human Rights Council adopts resolution on ending leprosy-related discrimination

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Laying the groundwork for principles and guidelines: people affected by leprosy speak at a session of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights on August 5, 2005.

A resolution on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members was adopted by the Human Rights Council at its 15th session that ended in Geneva on October 1.

The resolution approved principles and guidelines declaring that states should promote, protect and ensure the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for persons affected by leprosy and their family members, without discriminating against them on the grounds of leprosy. These rights are spelt out in areas including education, employment, living in the community, participation in political life, and participation in public, such as access to hotels, restaurants and buses.

Unanimously endorsed by the Council, the landmark resolution encourages governments, relevant United Nations bodies, specialized agencies, funds and programs, other intergovernmental organizations and national human rights institutions to give due consideration to the principles and guidelines in the formulation and implementation of policies and measures concerning persons affected by leprosy and their family members.

The resolution was submitted by the Japanese government and co-sponsored by a total of 45 states.

Earlier resolutions adopted in June 2008 and October 2009 called, respectively, for the Council's

advisory committee to formulate and finalize Principles and Guidelines.

When a draft was submitted to the Human Rights Council in 2009, a sticking point emerged over an assertion inserted during Advisory Committee deliberations that isolation of persons with the disease was justified under certain circumstances. Isolation has no place in the modern-day treatment of leprosy, and after strenuous objections by NGOs and other concerned parties, the document was returned to the Advisory Committee for further review and input from relevant actors.

Among other important provisions contained in the principles and guidelines is one that addresses a key concern of the older generation of people affected by leprosy. It calls for any persons once forcibly isolated by state policies to be allowed to continue living in the leprosariums and hospitals that have become their homes, should they so desire.

In the event that relocation is unavoidable, the guidelines state that "the residents of these places should be active participants in decisions concerning their future."