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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: Bangladesh Repeals 'Lepers Act'

Century-old act stigmatized people affected by leprosy

A long campaign to have a discriminatory piece of legislation scrapped finally bore fruit on November 24 when Bangladesh's Parliament repealed the 1898 Lepers Act. The law, which dated back to the days when there was no cure for the disease, enabled the forcible seclusion of people affected by leprosy in government-run institutions.

The campaign to have it repealed was spearheaded by Saber Hossain Chowdhury, a member of Parliament from the ruling Awami League, with support from The Leprosy Mission International-Bangladesh and other organizations.

"We consider this as a big milestone in our journey towards 'A Bangladesh without leprosy' and as a definite dynamic motivation for all our efforts at the promotion and protection of the human rights of the people affected by leprosy, which are so often violated, and grossly violated, because of this disease," said Martin Adhikary, director of advocacy and promotion for TLMI-B.

Speaking on the BBC World Service, Saber Hossain Chowdhury said: "We are sending the message that people, regardless of what their medical conditions are, are entitled to the same rights and privileges as we who are not afflicted with the disease expect to have. It's about human rights. It's about upholding the dignity of all people."


Dr. Shin (left) and Dr. Samlee (right) with the Goodwill Ambassador

The regional directors of the WHO's Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions met with Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa in Tokyo at the end of November. Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang (SEARO) and Dr Shin Young-soo (WPRO) discussed the progress being made against leprosy in their regions and underscored the importance of focusing on the social as well as the medical aspects of the disease.


The Nippon Foundation, together with partners, is holding the first of five regional seminars on human rights on February 1, 2012, in Brazil. The purpose is to promote awareness and implementation of last year's UN resolution to end discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.