Due to ignorance, misunderstanding, indifference or fear, millions of people cured of leprosy still suffer from the stigma associated with the disease
Persons affected by leprosy not only face stigma associated with the disease, but also great obstacles to their social integration before and after cure.
The stigma of leprosy continues to be one of its most persistent and damaging features and it can stop those affected from coming forward for early and effective treatment.
Helping to perpetuate the discrimination are various laws and regulations existing in many countries worldwide.
Children, women and men affected by leprosy are discriminated against and too often stigmatised, their rights ignored.
A purposeful and repeated public education programme is needed to stop the stigma.
ILEP’s statement against the word “leper”
We believe the word “leper” is derogatory, outdated and offensive. It is often associated with someone who has been rejected, ostracised or regarded as an outcast. We believe that to end the stigma and discrimination against people affected by leprosy, the word “leper” must be removed from our language. Similarly, the word “leprosy” when used as a derisory term or noun.
We prefer to use the term “people affected by leprosy” instead. “Leprosy patients” is also a term we use for people who are currently in treatment.
In 2009, WHO Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa called for an end to usage of the word leper which he described as ‘an extremely damaging term’ that contributes to stigma and impacts human rights.