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Living under the stigma of leprosy


She waits patiently for her husband to muster up the energy to lift his leg so she can help him attach his prosthetic.  He spent the morning in a blue cart he built for himself after the affects of his leprosy became so much that he could no longer work as a carpenter.  He now spends every morning begging for rupees and rice in the area where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet.  The place is flooded with tourists.  But he only receives about 50 rupees (about 1 dollar) a day.

People walk past as Bacchalal begs for money. People who are leprosy affected in India face a social stigma, that forces many to live in isolated colonies. (photo by Anna Reed)

A child stares as Bachahalal as he sits and begs for money. He is missing a leg because of leprosy, leaving himself and his family stigmatized by much of Indian society. (photo by Anna Reed)

At midday, when the sun is strongest, she comes to get him out of the sun and back to their bamboo and mud home.  She pushes him in the cart about half a mile, up a hill before arriving back home.  Her back bends and her thin legs move slowly as she struggles to push him up the hill, past the tourists, other beggars and piles of garbage.  Once home, she helps him bathe himself under the public water spigot.

Bacchalal runs water over his leg. He lost it to leprosy and most of his toes on the other foot. (photo by Anna Reed)

Bacchalal and Subhadra Yadav have lived in an isolated leprosy colony for most of the marriage. Their daughter, Usha, was born and raised there and now is raising her five children in the home next door to her parents. She and her children are healthy, but face a social stigma, as well, because her father is leprosy affected. (photo by Anna Reed)

Bacchalal and Subhadra Yadav live together in the Nav Nirman Kusht Ashram colony in Allahabad, India.  They have lived there for about 40 years.  Bacchalal is leprosy affected, so the social stigma forced upon him forces him to live in an isolated community with other leprosy affected people.  She does not have leprosy, but has boils covering her entire face and body, leaving her stigmatized as well.

Subhadra wipes sweat from her face in the bamboo and mud home she shares with her husband, who is leprosy affected. She has boils that cover her face and body, which leaves her stigmatized by most of Indian society. (photo by Anna Reed)

Leprosy is a completely curable disease, if it is treated in time, and is not contagious.  It is not hereditary.  It is started because of a micro bacteria entering the body.  Many people in India are not aware of the reality with the disease, so the stigma still exists, despite the medical facts.

They feel that they can do nothing except beg for money so they can have enough to feed themselves.  They live with a self-stigma as well.  They say they are ashamed of the leprosy and do not see any other opportunities for themselves.

Categories: India
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