Political leaders in France and Italy must immediately stop using “leprosy” as a metaphor in debates on nationalism, said Tuesday a UN human rights expert.
“Remarks reportedly made by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio, in which leprosy was used as a metaphor for a rise in nationalism, are appalling,” said Alice Cruz, the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.
Mr. Macron was reported as saying of nationalists: “You can see them rise a bit like leprosy all across Europe, in countries where we thought that it would be impossible to see them again, in neighbouring countries.”
Mr. Macron’s comments were allegedly followed by a statement by Mr. Di Maio saying: “The real leprosy is the European hypocrisy of someone who pushes back migrants at [the French-Italian border at] Ventimiglia, and then moralizes about how to manage them.”
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The UN expert stressed: “The use of such expressions and references to leprosy in political debate only promotes misunderstanding of leprosy and discrimination against people affected by it.
The Special Rapporteur reminded France and Italy of their obligations and commitments under the Principles and Guidelines for the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy and their Family members.
The document makes clear that the use of discriminatory language including the derogatory use of the term “leper” or its equivalent in any language and dialect, is prohibited.
“States that have voluntarily approved the Principles and Guidelines should promote them, and help in the elimination of discrimination and stigma against people affected by leprosy and their family members,” Ms Cruz stressed.
Ms Alice Cruz (Portugal) was appointed in November 2017 as the first UN Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination of persons affected by leprosy and their family members. She is an External Professor at the Law School of University Andina Simón Bolívar in Ecuador.
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