This spring I had the opportunity, to attend the 60th session of the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), where for the first time I addressed
members on the stigmatization of people affected by leprosy. From times past,
people with the disease, as well as their famines, have traditionary been shunned
by communities. Even though leprosy is now curable, many people still
suffer deep-seated discrimination.
The reason why this has not been taken up as a human rights issue before is
because the response to the disease has been primarily a medical one, Furthermore, patients and even those cured of leprosy have been segregated from society and unable to speak out. By bringing this before the UNCHR, I wanted to expose the social discrimination that people affected by leprosy face, and seek a global solution.
Ingrained prejudice and discrimination are not easily eradicated, however. In order for
persons affected by leprosy to gain social acceptance, not only must the disease itself be
eliminated, but social attitudes must also be changed.
Organizations concerned with human rights must become involved and create a climate in
which the human rights of those affected by leprosy are acknowledged. I am therefore much encouraged by the way that WHO Director-General Dr. long wook Lee is speaking out on
health and human rights issues.
Eventually, I want to see the U. N. come up with a ser of guidelines concerning legislation,
education and awareness activities, showing governments and NGOs what they must do to get rid of prejudice and discrimination. First, though, we need the UNCHR to adopt a draft
resolution chat advocates the human rights of people affected by leprosy. This will serve as
the basis to study measures necessary to eliminate discrimination. The support of all countries will be essential, and those that express interest must be fully encouraged.
Much work still needs to be done. But presenting the issue before the UNCHR was an
important first step and I am confident of seeing steady progress from now on.
Yohei Sasakawa”, WHO Goodwill Ambassador
Message : My Resolve to End Discrimination
Report from Geneva
From the Editors:Leprosy and Human Rights