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5 key human rights that have been stolen from people affected by leprosy

© Daniel Christiansz

Leprosy is a medical condition and from a human rights perspective, it should be no different from a headache or the common cold. However, people often have many of their human rights deprived from them when they are diagnosed with leprosy. This is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human rights and it needs to change. Below are 5 of the most vital human rights that are often taken away from people affected by leprosy.

  1. Right to health
    All of us have the right to the same range and quality of free or affordable health care. Sadly, people affected by leprosy often miss out on this. Sometimes this is because hospitals in their area aren’t able to treat them properly and sometimes it’s because they refuse to treat them, due to the prevailing stigma that surrounds leprosy.
  2. Right to education
    All of us have a right to go to school and receive and education. However, many children affected by leprosy aren’t able to attend school. Sometimes this is because the length of their treatment takes them away from schools and sometimes it is because the schools won’t let them join because of the fear that they will spread leprosy (leprosy is not very infectious at all and stops being contagious after 72 hours of proper treatment).
  3. Right to work and employmentBeing able to earn a living is a right that most of us depend on as it helps us to pay for food and housing and it often gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. However, it is very difficult to get employers to hire people affected by leprosy. We have to work hard to educate employers about the fact that leprosy is not contagious and there is absolutely no need for stigma.
  4. Right to be included in the community
    All of us have a right to be included in our communities and to make choices about where we live. One of the great areas of sadness with leprosy is that often the people affected are rejected by their families and sent away from their communities. Not only is this deeply distressing, it is also in violation of a fundamental human right.
  5. Right to respect for home and the family
    All of us have the right to live with our families in safe homes. Often this right is disregarded in the case of  people affected by leprosy as they are sent away by their families or divorced by their partners. In Ethiopia we know of many women who face domestic violence and divorce when they are diagnosed with leprosy. This is all linked to the stigma and fear of leprosy, neither of which are based on  fact.
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