Saturday, 7 March 2015

Triple jeopardy: tackling the discrimination facing girls and women with leprosy

Girls and women with leprosy are triply discriminated against because of their gender, the disabilities that can result from the disease and the impact of its stigma is the key message of a new report by the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP).

The report which is published on 6th March 2015  highlights practical actions which need to be taken so that healthcare systems cease to fail girls and women by detecting leprosy early enough to prevent disability and remove barriers to inclusion in society.

Triple jeopardy: tackling the discrimination facing girls and women with leprosy” emphasises that women in some countries are less likely than men to be diagnosed early.  Improved access to diagnosis and treatment are essential for a better outcome.

The report warns that the new United Nations Sustainable Development goals, due to be agreed in October 2015, will fail in their aim to “leave no one behind” if discrimination against girls and women affected by leprosy is not tackled.  They have become invisible and lost their rights to health, education, employment and to marry and have a family.

Late detection and diagnosis is caused by the lack of access to information, education and literacy.  A very real fear that the stigma of leprosy can lead to rejection by the family and wider community can result in girls and women ignoring or hiding their early symptoms.

“When I got this disease, the attitude of the family and society changed completely.  They deserted me, which made me heartbroken even more and made me think, why is this happening?”
Rachana, Lokdoot (Community Health
 Ambassador) with  Lepra in India

Rajobala Dutt lives at The Leprosy Mission’s Purulia snehalaya (mercy home) in West Bengal, India, where older people affected by leprosy who have nowhere else to go are cared for.

She said:  “Someone told my husband my symptoms were that of leprosy and that he should take me away from the village and leave me to die.  He was told by the villagers that he had to choose between his wife and living in the village.  If I remained he would not be allowed to use the water or get employment.  So my husband told me to go away and die somewhere and that he would dig the grave.”

Thankfully Rajobala came into contact with The Leprosy Mission and her leprosy was treated.