The Indian Constitution is a fine document, said a speaker at a workshop in Pune last December, yet a lot of rights "remain on paper." Japan's postwar Constitution is similarly considered by many to be a fine document; yet for decades certain articles were ignored when it came to the rights of persons the state incarcerated in leprosy sanatoria.
Forming another splendid document are the principles and guidelines adopted by the UN General Assembly last December as part of the resolution to end discrimination against people affected by leprosy. The challenge is how to transform these words on paper into actions by governments and civil society.
This will require actions by those whom the principles and guidelines are designed to benefit; they must take every opportunity to bring the guidelines to the attention of the authorities. "The ball is in our court," Dr. P.K. Gopal of India's National Forum of people affected by leprosy has stated.
The key to change is empowerment. "I have seen the difference when sex workers are empowered," said another participant in Pune, who shared with people affected by leprosy her knowledge of this socially marginalized sector. "When they are empowered," she said, "they can get what they are asking for."