Statement of Mr. Brent Morgan, made before the CRPD Conference on 13 June 2018
Subject: Political participation and equal recognition before the law
Mr Chairperson/Madame Chair and Excellencies,
Article 29 (b) of the CRPD clearly enunciates the responsibility of the state to promote actively an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public affairs. While the Leprosy Mission strongly articulates for the realization of the rights to political participation and equal recognition before the law for all persons with disabilities, I would like to particularly bring to your notice the denial of these critical rights in the case of persons with leprosy related disabilities. While some estimates suggest that over 3 million people are living with leprosy related disabilities, the actual figures could be much more as leprosy affected persons refuse to be identified due to the fear of stigma. Leprosy is often perceived by different societies as contagious, hereditary and received as a divine punishment.
Persons with leprosy related disabilities are perhaps the only group amongst people with disabilities who face ‘legal discrimination’ on account of discriminatory legislations that are still force in many countries, denying them the right to political participation and equal recognition before the law. For instance, there are 119 laws in India that discriminatory and prevent persons with leprosy related disabilities the rights guaranteed under the CRPD. The Honourable Supreme Court of India has now directed the Union and the state governments to repeal laws that are discriminatory in nature. Judicial intervention through Public Interest Litigation is perhaps one of the good practices in ensuring right to political participation.
Taking note of the existing stigma and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy, the UN Advisory Committee to the Human Rights Council formulated Principles and Guidelines for elimination of the discrimination against persons affected by leprosy which have been adopted by the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. These principles and guidelines clearly emphasize the responsibility of the national governments in eliminating discrimination against persons with leprosy related disabilities.
Right to political participation and equal recognition before the law are not stand alone rights that will enable persons with disabilities to participate in political affairs. They have to be reinforced by various other rights guaranteed under the CRPD that are complementary and create a conducive environment for political participation.
We therefore request the honourable state parties to implement the Principles and Guidelines effectively and also request the CRPD committee to please consider inclusion of a question in the national reports under article 35 seeking information from the 21 leprosy endemic countries that are also parties to CRPD on the steps taken to implement the Principles and Guidelines which will pave the way to political participation and equal recognition before the law for persons with leprosy related disabilities.