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Leprosy stigma and its effect on the marriage experience of leprosy affected people and their descendants: the case of Addis-Tesfa Hiwot settlements in Ethiopia


Objective To describe how leprosy stigma affects the marriage experience of former leprosy patients and their descendants. Methods This qualitative study was conducted in settlements of leprosy-affected persons in Ethiopia and involved focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, key informant interviews, observations and desk reviews. Results Stigma was found to present an unbearable burden on the overall wellbeing of persons affected, particularly on their marriage life and the same for their children, due to stereotyping. Leprosy-affected persons face difficulties in finding a partner, being abandoned by their spouse, and being seen as a threat to the marriage prospects of other members of the family. As a result, affected persons are forced to leave their families and area of birth to live in settlements designated for them. Descendants also face stigmatization and marriage isolation in other communities where they live, if they are identified as the offspring of leprosy-affected parents, forcing them to marry mainly within their own community. Conclusion When someone is identified as a person affected by leprosy, they may fail to find a marriage partner or their marriage may come to an end; the marriage prospects of the whole family are put at risk. Concealing one’s background is often the ultimate result, but this presents a different and unique set of challenges and problems.

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Journal Article
Ayele H