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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 February 17 - 23  > Families of ex-Hansen disease patients in court call for society free from discrimination and prejudice
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2016 February 17 - 23 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Families of ex-Hansen disease patients in court call for society free from discrimination and prejudice

February 19, 2016
Akahata ‘current’ column

Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) was mistakenly believed to be an incurable disease caused by a curse or a form of divine punishment. In actuality, its degree of infactiousness is low and medicines developed after WWII can cure the disease completely. However, the government did not stop the compulsory isolation of leprosy patients until the Leprosy Prevention Law was abolished in 1996.

The government’s unjust policies nurtured and implanted in the society at large continued discrimination and prejudice against Hansen’s disease patients. People affected by leprosy were treated without human dignity. They were confined in isolated facilities and forced to be sterilized or have abortions. This draconian government policy caused great sufferings to not only the patients, but also their divided family members.

“Don’t get close to them, you’ll get infected.” “Let’s void them when their families walked this road.” Being stigmatized, families of Hansen’s disease patients have been forced to live lives in the grip of fear. A group of these families has recently filed a lawsuit, demanding that the government take responsibility and make an apology. They also seek state compensation for misgovernments.

Some children of leprosy patients think ill of their parents and some hide their identities and are estranged from their parents. Under such a situation, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit will call for the creation of a society free from discrimination and prejudice. One of the plaintiffs, whose father had the disease, said, “I have lived my life with my head down, but from now on, I will stop hiding and keep my head high.”

Past related article:
> Former Hansen’s disease patients working to have sanatoriums open to local communities [September 20, 2007]
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