At an international symposium on leprosy and human rights in New Delhi recently, participants were reminded that the concept of human rights may need to be explained. "I've heard a lot of talk of human rights today, but people in colonies don't know what human rights are," said Ghasiram Bhoi, who heads an organization of persons affected by leprosy in India's Chhattisgarh state.
Not knowing their rights means that people don't know what to do about their rights, experts noted. "We don't get complaints, because people affected by leprosy don't realize these are human rights issues as well - they complain to the works ministry, (for example)," said Cecilia Quisumbing of the Philippines's Commission on Human Rights.
States, for their part, often do not understand the concept of protecting human rights as a state obligation. Moreover, they may need reminding that the burden rests with them to investigate violations of human rights, the UN University's Dr. Vesselin Popovski said.
Raising awareness of UN-adopted Principles and Guidelines to end discrimination against people affected by leprosy and their families was the purpose of the New Delhi symposium. In the process, it also raised awareness that more needs to be done to explain the concept of human rights to those who will benefit from that knowledge and to those with a duty to respect, protect and fulfill those rights.