Following Stigma and Segregation of Individuals Afflicted with Lepromatous Leprosy

  • Deanna Bogaski University of Manitoba


Modern Western society tells a tale of fear and exclusion of individuals with leprosy on a global scale, yet case studies from across the globe tell a tale of compassion, not of stigmatization. The effects of leprosy can be crippling and cause disfigurement, and many cultures had their own beliefs associated with the disease. In the 19th century a rise in the prevalence of leprosy incited fear in the population and historical methods of treatment were sought, namely Leprosaria. In this case fear of contracting this disfiguring disease cultivated a repulsion from those affected. Originally, Leprosaria were founded because it was believed that those who had contracted the disease had sinned, and through living a life of piety would be redeemed. Modern Western society believed that this had inadvertently helped to isolate the contagious disease. The model was mimicked but isolation and segregation were forced, propagated by the idea that this was the method to which all afflicted populations had eventually turned, finding no effective alternative. Archaeological and ethnographic accounts from Japan, India, and Europe, demonstrate that in most cases, segregation was not a method practiced, and when it occurred it was through individual choice; many infected individuals chose to remain with their families and communities until death.