Research carried out by a young occupational therapist in Maharashtra on employer attitudes toward hiring persons affected by leprosy (p.6) shows that more work needs to be done to educate both employers and employees about the disease. While the majority of employers indicated they were sympathetic toward affected persons, when it came to offering them work, less than a third said they were prepared to do so - mostly citing the problems they could expect from their employees, but also indicating that they didn't feel people affected by the disease would make efficient workers.
A lack of employment opportunities due to the stigma associated with leprosy is not limited to persons directly affected by the disease. As an article in the Hindustan Times noted last July - around the time that occupational therapist Bino Berry was beginning his survey - fear of leprosy remains so strong that even non-affected in a community associated with leprosy suffer from stigma.
The paper quoted a driver called Junan, aged 20, living in an ashram in the north of Delhi, who said,"I'm planning to move out as I don't want the address of a leprosy home on my driver's license. In the past, whenever my employers have discovered where I live, I get the sack."
In parts of India and other countries where leprosy has deep roots, prejudice and discrimination breed poverty. Empowering the"second generation" is surely the way to break this vicious cycle.