24 January, 2021

Unlit Lamps In Attics

Leprosy's ancient stigma still festers in India. It's time we cut the pain.

Unlit Lamps In Attics
The stigma born of leprosy cuts across all man-made barriers of race, caste, class and religion. Even after the leprosy bacteria is absent in the body thanks to now easily accessible medicine, the tell-tale scars pursue that unfortunate, affected person till the end. A generation or two ago, smallpox signs on the face were sometimes seen as a visitation of past sins. In the case of leprosy, this is sadly a perception that even the educated continue to have. From Malaysia to Japan to large parts of Africa, where the disease or its remnants exist, societal discrimination causes the leprosy-affected to be confined to slums and ghettos at one end of the spectrum, to more sanitised colonies and dormitories in more affluent societies.

Suresh (name changed), about 40, has no leprosy, but is a victim of its stigma. This is because his parents were afflicted with the disease. He was separated as a child from his parents and grew up in a hostel. That they are now cured seems to matter little to Suresh's peer group. He was lucky to get a government...


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