Jugdha, India

There are 850 leprosy colonies in India. In the past 15 years the Indian government has built no new colonies so leprosy-affected people live in regular villages. This is why it is imperative for the Challenging Anti-Leprosy Legislation (CALL) project to educate villagers on the human rights of leprosy-affected people and to stamp out any stigma within the community.

A CALL project worker went to talk to the people of Ashodhar village in Uttar Pradesh. There is just one lady in this community who is affected by leprosy – Jugdha. Now widowed, Jugdha does not know her age but moved to Ashodhar when she married. It was at this time she began developing disabilities and was eventually diagnosed with leprosy and treated with dapsone, the preferred method of treatment before multidrug therapy was introduced in the early 1980s.

Jugdha was previously forbidden by villagers to take water from the common well because she was affected by leprosy. The CALL project worker challenged villagers on why they insisted this should be the case. They now help Jugdha at the well, a kindness greatly appreciated as she struggles as a result of the leprosy-caused disabilities to her hands.

Interestingly, the villagers now say the problem lies not with them, but with Jugdha’s two sons and their wives. Since her sons married they live in two neighbouring homes and Jugdha lives in a makeshift shelter between the two homes. She says she is not allowed to live in either because she is leprosy-affected. This is despite giving her pension money to her sons.

One of the daughters-in-law said: “She is an infected person and I’m not an infected person. The community will stigmatise us.”

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