ILEP calls for an end to violence and discrimination against women with leprosy

girl from Myanmar with thanaka paste on her face

November 25, 2016

Tanya Wood, Chief Executive Office, ILEP, calls for an end to violence and discrimination against girls and women with leprosy on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Girls and women affected by leprosy are triply discriminated against because of their gender, the disabilities that can result from the disease and the stigma associated with it (1). A recent review noted that women affected by leprosy are at risk of being abandoned and socially vulnerable. Some women with leprosy are sexually abused (2). A study in Nepal by ILEP colleagues found that women affected by leprosy experienced a higher degree of sexual abuse by husbands than other women (with or without disabilities) (3). Not only is violence against women a significant public health problem, it is also a fundamental violation of women’s human rights. Research has highlighted that there is still much to be done in our advocacy for women and leprosy. ILEP continues to shine a spotlight on the challenges of leprosy and how it affects women, particularly as it pushes for “Zero Transmission,” “Zero Disabilities,” and “Zero Discrimination.”

“There is bank-i-moonone universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.” United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon (2008).

Violence against women may take many forms, including but not restricted to domestic abuse, rape, child abuse, prostitution, human trafficking, psychological abuse, economic abuse, forced marriage and ‘honour’ crimes. (4). Worldwide, one in three women (35%) is physically or sexually abused during her lifetime; most of this is intimate partner violence.(5). Violence against women constrains poverty reduction efforts by reducing women’s participation and lowers women’s access to education. (6).

Tanya Wood, ILEP CEO says, “Women affected by leprosy already make up some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised groups. In many societies, girls and women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse. Gender is therefore an important area of ILEP’s focus. We are committed to working with partners to help tackle this inequality and protect the dignity and human rights of all people affected by leprosy.”

In December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 54/134, designating November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.



(1) ILEP “Triple Jeopardy: Tackling the discrimination facing girls and women with leprosy.” International Federation of Anti-leprosy Associations. 2015. Retrieved November 18, 2016 from

(2) Sarkar, R., and Pradhan, S. “Leprosy and women.” International Journal of Women’s Dermatology. 2016.

(3) van ’t Noordende, A. T., van Brakel, W. H., Banstola, N., et al. “The Impact of Leprosy on Marital Relationships and Sexual Health among Married Women in Eastern Nepal.” Journal of Tropical Medicine. 2016.

(4) Gill, A., Radford, L., Barter, C., et al. “Violence against women: current theory and practice in domestic abuse, sexual violence and exploitation.” Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2012.

(5) García-Moreno, C. “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence.” 2013.

(6) García-Moreno, C., and Watts, C. “Violence against women: an urgent public health priority.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 89(1), 2-2. 2011.

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