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The Lok Sabha today passed the Personal Laws (Amendment Bill), 2018, which aims to omit leprosy as a ground for divorce from various Acts governing marriage in India.
The legislations so amended by the Bill include the Divorce Act, 1869; the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939; the Special Marriage Act, 1954; the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that owing to advancements in medical science, the disease of leprosy is no longer incurable.
“The discriminatory provisions contained in various statutes against the persons affected with leprosy were made prior to the medical advancements rendering leprosy a curable disease. Presently, leprosy is completely curable and can be treated with multidrug therapy. However, old legislative provisions discriminating the persons affected by leprosy continued in various laws.”
The first attempt towards eliminating the bias perpetuated by Indian laws against people suffering from the disease was made in 2008, when the National Human Rights Commission recommended amendments in certain personal laws and other legislations.
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’, which was signed and ratified by India. Subsequently, the Law Commission of India in its 256th Report recommended the elimination of discrimination against people affected by the disease.
More recently, the Supreme Court issued a slew of directions to the Central and State governments in order to spread awareness about leprosy and to facilitate a life of equality and dignity for those affected by the disease. The PIL filed by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy averred that at least one hundred and nineteen statutes (both Central and State) discriminate against patients affected by the disease and that the same are violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
If passed by the Upper House and eventually made an Act, the Bill will go a long way in detaching the social stigma associated with the disease.
Read the full text of the Bill: