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Brazil: UN expert hails legislative breakthroughs favouring children separated from parents affected by leprosy (Hansen’s disease)

08 December 2023

GENEVA (8 December 2023) – A UN expert today welcomed legislative strides towards protecting and promoting the human rights of children separated from their parents affected by Hansen's disease in Brazil.

"I congratulate the Brazilian government on the signing of this milestone and encourage it to implement this law with the necessary resources and structures, and to ensure that cases are examined and decided by the inter-ministerial commission in a swift and effective manner," said Dr. Beatriz Miranda Galarza, UN Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by Hansen's disease and their family members.

Some 16,000 children were separated from their parents suffering from Hansen's disease and sent to institutions between 1923 and 1986, under the state's forced segregation policy at the time. These separated children have been fighting for reparations from the state and filed several cases in state courts over the past decade. "I also congratulate all human rights defenders, including the National Movement for the Reintegration of People Affected by Hansen's Disease (MORHAN) for this achievement," she added.

On 24 November 2023, in line with the previous recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Hansen's disease (Country visit report, A/HRC/44/46/Add.2, para 80; communication AL BRA 15/201; and public statement of 21 October 2020), the President of Brazil signed a law amending legislation from 2007. The new law stipulates that the monthly stipend paid to persons with Hansen's disease may not be less than the minimum wage and that children who have been separated from parents afflicted with Hansen's disease may also receive the monthly stipend as a measure of reparation. 

“Brazil was no exception," says the Special Rapporteur, pointing out that children were also separated from parents and caregivers and excluded from society because of Hansen's disease in many other countries. Cases of illegal adoptions enforced disappearances and even executions have been reported. “As a result, many people who suffered these violations do not have access to an adequate standard of living and economic autonomy, and many faces psychosocial disabilities that hinder their social inclusion.,” Miranda Galarza said.

The UN expert urged other States to follow Brazil's example and, as a matter of urgency, provide symbolic and material reparations and the necessary support at the national level to people who, as children, were separated from their parents affected by Hansen's disease and segregated from society.

Dr. Beatriz Miranda Galarza (Ecuador) was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy (Hansen’s disease) and their family members in October 2023. She works as coordinator of the Research and the Critical Disability Studies Programme in 17, Institute of Critical Studies (Mexico).

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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