Changing lives, one law at a time.
On 15 November 2014, The Himalayan Times published an article entitled ‘Bill Prohibits Marriage if Serious Illness Hidden.’ This article stated that the Nepalese Civil Law (Amendment and Codification) Bill proposes to, “prohibit marriage if health status of bride or groom with serious illness is concealed. Such serious diseases have been defined as HIV, Hepatitis B and others. The bill bars marriage between man and woman if they are devoid of genitals or are impotent, cannot bear child, or are dumb, deaf, blind, insane or leprous.”
Following this article, The Leprosy Mission Nepal (TLMN) and other Nepal Leprosy Network (NLN) members, joined forces to lobby against this new “Anti-Marriage Law” bill. Dr Shovakhar Kandel, TLMN’s Country leader, wrote a rebuttal letter on behalf of NLN to the Editor of the national daily on 12 December, requesting to withdraw the bill from being processed to the Parliament.
By that time, an NLN delegation team had already met the concerned authorities at the Ministry and had spoken to the Member of Parliament to appeal against the bill. In addition, the NLN delegation discussed the necessity of a one-day interaction workshop, to help members of the Parliament and media understand the facts about leprosy and the consequences of such a bill. The interaction workshop, a joint programme also celebrating the 62nd World Leprosy Day, was held at Anandaban Hospital in Kathmandu on the 31 December.
Twelve members of Parliament, seven media personnel, NLN members, Anandaban staff and 300 leprosy affected people attended the workshop. All attendees were provided with a copy of the bill before the start of the workshop. During the workshop, the causes, consequences and treatment of leprosy were explained, stories of people affected by leprosy were shared and the services provided at Anandaban hospital were emphasised. Special attention was given to part of the bill that states “…a leprosy affected male or female may not conceal their illness to lure someone into marriage.”
At the end of the interaction workshop, the Members of Parliament promised to work together to improve the lives of those affected by leprosy and disability, and assured that the marriage issue related to people affected by leprosy as included in the draft bill would be removed. Even though the Members of the Parliament promised to change the law, a decision on the law has not yet been made.
Dr Kandel has been identifying other discriminating laws in the past few years, including the divorce law, laws on poverty and family laws. He is also interested in discriminatory practices as described in the Old and New Testament and Hindu and Islamic texts.