Throughout the ages leprosy has been looked upon with contempt and horror. People affected by leprosy were generally isolated, banished from society and segregated. This practice has come about from ancient times on the assumption that leprosy is an incurable disease and also contagious which can spread easily and healthy population may get infected if exposed to the lepers.
People with leprosy and their family members often face psychological and social problems.
There is mention of leprosy in the Bible. The Bible says that lepers should live alone, wear torn clothing and cry out ‘unclean, unclean’ to let others know that they are infected. Lepers were not permitted into public buildings, forbidden to speak to children and required to sound a bell or a clapper. The word leper came to mean outcast. As the disease gave rise to physical deformities, it began to be associated with sin.
The effect of leprosy on the community is profound. The stigma of leprosy was largely based on misunderstanding. That needs to be cleared and affected people have to be educated about their rights to facilitate social acceptance. International agencies under the umbrella of the United Nations have tried to bring about changes in the underdeveloped countries’ attitude to leprosy patients.
The United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a resolution to eliminate discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. Many times attitudinal change comes about only when the society is forced to change its ways and respect basic human rights. People affected by leprosy should have the same human rights as all others.
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