Leprosy is no longer a ground for divorce - Seeker's Thoughts

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Leprosy is no longer a ground for divorce

This is the bitter truth of the society where marriage is supposed to  be an agreement to stand together in happiness and pain, but practically and legally the scenario changes in sickness. 

When people get diseases like Leprosy, the courage and promises of staying together vanishes. This chronic bacterial infection has not only affected human skin but also relationship.

According to personal laws- Hindu Marriage Act, Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, Divorce Act( for Christian)  etc Leprosy was a ground of divorce.

In August 2018,  the Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha to end the discrimination against the Leprosy patients. The bill has been passed in Lok Sabha in January 2019.

The United Nations Resolution and Law Commission’s Report

The 256th Report of Law Commission recommended the change in laws which were discriminatory against the Leprosy Patients.

India is a signatory to a UN Resolution which calls for the elimination of discrimination against persons suffering from Leprosy. Leprosy as a ground of divorce was contradicting to the resolution.

The National Human Right’s commission has also made a proposal for the government in this regard.

Leprosy is Curable Disease

Leprosy was earlier known to be incurable disease. The scenario changed with time, and the cure has been found.

The Disease

Leprosy remains growing and it continues to account for 60%  new cases globally each year. India comes under top 22 global priority countries that contribute to leprosy cases. 

What is Leprosy ?

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is a long-term infection by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to 20 years. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present. 

To tackle such cases of Leprosy, Indian government has launched NELP program, that stands for National Leprosy Eradication Programme.

National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NELP)

The National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) is the centrally sponsored health scheme of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. While the NLEP strategies and plans are formulated centrally, the programme is implemented by states and union territories (UTs). The programme is also supported by WHO, ILEP, and few other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Problems and challenges with Program

Lack of efficient reporting due to less awareness, continuing fear, stigma and discrimination leads to increase in cases. Working programs are more concerned in achieving the target set by WHO instead of having a focus on eliminating.

Leprosy health workers are multipurpose workers with additional responsibility of HIV and tuberculosis control. Lack of funding remains the issue as well

States which have reduced prevalence of cases earlier has also started getting the cases again which remains the matter of concern again. 

How to tackle the challenge? 

Skin Smear Devices those are needed for investigation need to be reintroduced in the system.

Need of wider awareness about leprosy should be given attention.

Collaboration between different government institutions, ministries and countries is suggested.