The impact of leprosy on marital relationships and sexual health among married women in Eastern Nepal.
Background. Leprosy is one of the most stigmatized diseases known today. The stigma surrounding leprosy can be a major burden and affects many dimensions of a person's life, including intimate relationships. We aimed to investigate the experiences of women affected by leprosy regarding marital life and sexuality, comparing these to the experiences of women with other physical disabilities and to those of able-bodied women in South-East Nepal. Methods. This study used a qualitative approach and a cross-sectional, nonrandom survey design. Thirty women underwent in-depth interviews about their marital and sexual relationship by means of a semi-structured interview guide. These thirty women included ten women affected by leprosy, ten women with other physical disabilities, and ten able-bodied women living in South-East Nepal. Results. We found that many women faced violence and abuse in their marriages. However, women affected by leprosy appeared to face more problems with regard to their marital and sexual relationships than women with physical disabilities and able-bodied women. Some of these related to the fear of leprosy. Conclusions. Further research is recommended to investigate the extent of this problem and ways to ameliorate the situation of the affected women. Education and counselling at diagnosis may help prevent many of the problems reported.