7 July 2020 · Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy
UN Special Rapporteur on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy and Their Family Members presents thematic report to Human Rights Council
Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, Alice Cruz, presented her thematic report to the United Nations Human Rights Council on 6 July.
In her presentation, Alice emphasized her advocacy for a bottom-up, people-centered approach to eliminating discrimination against persons affected by leprosy by addressing current policy shortcomings. “The generalized gap on the human rights approach to leprosy in policymaking contributes to leaving persons affected furthest behind,” she said.
Alice’s policy framework for rights-based action plans offers suggestions in four main areas: adequate standard of living and economic autonomy; non-discrimination, independent living and inclusion in the community; elimination of stereotypes, and the right to truth and memory; and empowerment, with a focus on vulnerable groups.
In addition to her thematic report, Alice also presented the results of her May 2019 visit to Brazil and her February 2020 mission to Japan. While reporting on her visit to Brazil, she explained that structurally vulnerable groups experience disproportionate effects of stigmatization. Therefore, she says, a country’s efforts must target a social-economic disadvantage to ensure a minimum standard of living for persons affected by leprosy. Reflecting on her visit to Japan, she recognized the successes of persons affected in self-organizing to advocate for an administrative program that provides material compensation and an approach to address stigmatization.
Alice argued that leprosy cannot be studied in isolation. Rather, looking to leprosy can provide insight into the consequences of stigmatization and isolation that affect vulnerable groups worldwide, especially alongside intersecting vulnerabilities such as mental health, economic autonomy, independent living, and gender-based violence.
In May, Alice issued an open letter on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons affected and their families. She referenced the letter in her presentation: “Lessons learned from leprosy would add value to rights-based and more effective public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In closing, Alice reflected on her past two and a half years as Special Rapporteur. “I have witnessed how this mandate has had an empowering effect on many persons affected and their family members, who are now increasingly aware of their rights and how to claim them,” she said. “Their journey is just beginning, and much more and sustained efforts are acutely needed.”
Written by Caroline Cassard, Communications Specialist, Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy