Personal Laws Amendment Bill transforms marriage in India - Leprosy is no longer grounds for divorce

‘When her (Sharida) symptoms started to show her husband divorced her, left her and took her children away from her…’

From Katharine Jones: It’s great news from India. The Cabinet, the highest decision-making body in the Indian Government, chaired by the Prime Minister, has approved the Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018 which amends the Divorce Act for Christians, Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, the Hindu Marriage Act, the Special Marriage Act and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act and strikes out leprosy as a ground for seeking divorce.

Before this landmark decision, people affected by leprosy were equated with those experiencing mental illness under several Marriage Acts and the Indian Divorce Act.

About Sharidah: Sharidah is 60 years old and lives in the Ghogronala Leprosy Community in Champa, Chhattisgarh, India. She was diagnosed with leprosy at 10 years old and because she didn’t have any obvious symptoms of leprosy, she was able to marry. When her symptoms started to show her husband divorced her, left her and took her children away from her.

Thanks to taking part in a The Leprosy Mission self-help group for the last 12 years, she has been able to set up her grocery store that gives her a livelihood. She earns 50-60 rupees per week but says sadly, “sometimes people are still reluctant to visit and buy things from my shop, especially when they see my hands or feet and the permanent disabilities that they show.”

India has ratified UN Resolution A/HRC/15/30 which spells out principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.


Katharine Jones

The Leprosy Mission England and Wales

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