New Delhi, Jan 30 (PTI) Disability rights activist Javed Abidi today called for the removal of sections in various laws, including the personal laws, which he claimed were “discriminatory” to people suffering from leprosy. Also Read - COVID-19 Pandemic is Just a Wakeup Call and Will Not be the Last, Warns WHO

He was speaking here at the ’13th Global Appeal’ that seeks to end the stigma against people affected by the disease. Also Read - COVID-19 to Stay For 2 Years, WHO Scientist Gives a Realistic Picture to a Common Man

The clauses of various obsolete acts that discriminate against people with leprosy should be declared as unconstitutional, a statement quoted Abidi as saying. Also Read - Indians With OCD Should Avoid Watching News Related to COVID-19

Even in the personal laws, there are sections which “provide for virulent form of leprosy as a ground for divorce, separation or annulment of marriage,” the global chair of NGO, the Disabled People’s International (DPI), claimed.

At the event a video message by Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, was also played.

“Leprosy is an age-old disease which has maimed and isolated many. Millions have been cured. The stigma is harmful, because if you keep leprosy hidden, you do not get access to care. We need to step up efforts, and work to ensure universal coverage,” he said.

There are 22 leprosy-endemic countries where the prevalence rate is more than 1,000 cases per year, the organisers said.

Pem Namgyal, Director Program Management for WHO, South East Asia, read out the message of WHO Regional Director for South East Asia Poonam Khetarpal Singh.

“We need social and legal dignity for people with leprosy. Multi-drug therapy is known to cure leprosy, but the prejudice against them is abetted by state and health workers.

“Nine per cent of those affected by leprosy worldwide are children, which means that leprosy is still being transmitted, and cases going undetected and untreated,” she said in her message.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.