DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh has scrapped a century-old act that isolated leprosy patients and forced many to take refuge in state-run centres. The Lepers Act of 1898, enacted when Bangladesh was part of the British Empire, was declared void by lawmakers on Thursday night, parliament spokesman Joynal Abedin told AFP. When the law was introduced, leprosy was thought to be highly contagious, Abedin said, adding that a new act would now lead to free healthcare for lepers. The parliament scrapped the act to establish human dignity, he said. According to Saber Chowdhury, an influential ruling-party lawmaker, the country has more than 50,000 leprosy patients and most are segregated or forced to take medical care in specialised centres. Lepers have been discriminated against, they wont get any jobs and cant use public transportation. They faced arrest and a fine if they dared to venture out of their homes or care centres, he said.