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Thursday, October 20, 2016
Worldwide call to ban use of word 'leper'
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 Mr Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy and Japanese Government Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of People Affected by Leprosy, has called for an end to the common usage of the word "leper", which he describes as "an extremely damaging term."

Speaking at the launch in London, of the fourth Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination Against People Affected by Leprosy, held to coincide with World Leprosy Day, he said that the word "carries the meaning of a pariah, or social outcast. Once that label has been applied it sticks for the rest of a person's life. The stigma remains even after he or she has been cured."

Mr Sasakawa said that people affected by leprosy have demanded that the term not be used. "Unfortunately its use continues to this day in the newsmedia, including the UK media, impacting on the dignity and human rights of people with the disease."

He appealed for an end of the use of this word. "Let it no longer be used as a term of derision and exclusion," he added.

This year's Global Appeal has been publicly supported by leaders of religious faiths from around the world - appealing to the power and influence of religion to change deeply discriminatory attitudes in society as experienced by people affected by leprosy. Sixteen religious leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, the Chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulamas, the President of the Japan Buddhist Federation, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care at the Vatican and the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, have signed the Appeal.

Mr Sasakawa, who is also Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, pointed out that "since an affective cure became available in the mid-1980s, 16 million people have been cured of leprosy worldwide. But, if we include family members, perhaps as many as 100 million people face leprosy-related discrimination in some form, often on a daily basis."

He added that his "lobbying of the United Nations has resulted in the UN Human Rights Council passing a unanimous resolution in June 2008, to eliminate stigma and discrimination against leprosy-affected people."

The resolution was sponsored by 59 countries, including the UK.

However "countries including the United States and the United Kingdom have regulations restricting the issue of work or residence permits to people with leprosy", which is in contravention of the resolution.

Mr Sasakawa said that removing "discrimination from society requires the co-operation of society's most influential members. Therefore I ask the religious leaders who have signed this year's Global Appeal to convey its message to their believers and followers."

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