Addressing an Obscure Vitiligo Based Discrimination In India
Recently, in 2020, we encountered a movement named ‘Black Lives Matter’ not only on social media platforms but at the ground level also. The aim of this social and political decentralized movement was to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people in different nations of the world. The immediate cause that bolstered this movement was the death of George Floyd, an African-American Hip-Hop Artist in police custody. The example is cited just to draw the attention of the readers about how the skin color of a person plays a major role in determining the behavior and psychology of the next person towards him.
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Sometimes the color of one’s skin gets affected and retarded due to some skin disorders that result in discrimination of that person at various platforms. Non-curable skin disorders have a serious impact on the lives of people. Studies state that persons with skin disorders often face less productivity at work or school due to discrimination that ultimately affects their overall well-being. Social acceptance of such persons is largely dependent on the attitude and perception of the society towards that disorder. Thus, this article considering one such disorder ‘Vitiligo,’ attempts to clarify the myths related to it.
WHAT IS VITILIGO?
Vitiligo (pronounced as ‘vittle-EYE-go’), also known as Leukoderma is a non-contagious skin depigmentation disease that results from an autoimmune process and is characterized by the destruction of melanocytes. It is estimated that it has affected nearly 1% of the world's population, regardless of the age, sex, and skin color of a person. Due to this chronic disease, one gets white patches of skin mainly appearing on visible areas of the body, including the face and hands. However, they are rarely accompanied by itching or other somatic symptoms. Most commonly, the disease begins during childhood or young adulthood with the onset of 10 to 30 years but can occur at any age.
Modern biomedicine states that there is no cure for Vitiligo available and it is usually a lifelong condition. Moreover, it states that therapies administered to cure it last only a short time, and a plethora of patients cannot get adequately treated. Thus, such non-curable cosmetically disfiguring appearances lead to serious psychological problems in daily life.
MISCONCEPTIONS RELATED TO VITILIGO
Different societies have different misconceptions related to this skin disorder. In Iran, women suffering from Vitiligo get not only discriminated, but their disease is also seen as “punishment by God for sins, or at least, moral and spiritual impurity.” In Africa, the culture, tradition, social, and religious practices of tribal people play a crucial role in the stigmatization of this skin disorder. They consider Vitiligo the wrath of the gods upon an individual, nemesis, a curse, mystery, and spiritual attack that plays a significant role in stigmatization. This social discrimination sometimes results in major changes in their lifestyle, such as staying at home instead of going outside to enjoy and wearing clothes covering the affected part of the body.
In India, Vitiligo is considered to be a contagious disease. Sometimes, even people reject the marriage proposals of the persons having Vitiligo based on the misconception that their offspring might face the same skin disorder even if one partner has such skin condition.
DISCRIMINATION BASED ON VITILIGO IN INDIA
The discrimination based on Vitiligo is widespread in India as most of the Indian population is colored. Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI), a questionnaire used to measure the impact of any skin disorder on the quality of life of an affected person, has been used to measure the negative impact on persons affected with Vitiligo in India. Studies that have used DLQI have shown that due to psychological trauma and physical disfigurement, sufferers are prone to social ostracism, face difficulty in getting jobs, face problems in getting married, get subjected to taunts, comments, and sometimes abuses.
Sometimes even patients withdraw themselves from continuing any medication due to humiliation and guilt. Most people do not sit with them to have a meal. The patients get depressed, isolated, and even sometimes think of committing suicide due to discrimination. In a study, two-thirds of the participants outright rejected marrying a person suffering from Vitiligo even when he or she was a perfect match. Such instances reported in different studies clearly denote that although Vitiligo does not cause that much physical harm, it amounts to considerable psychological damage.
MEASURES TO BE TAKEN TO PREVENT DISCRIMINATION
Though Vitiligo is neither a fatal nor a life-threatening disease, the social stigma attached to it results in lowered self-esteem among those affected by this skin disorder. World Vitiligo Day is observed on June 25 to disseminate awareness about Vitiligo globally. The first Vitiligo Day was observed in 2011. However, even after a decade, hardly anyone is aware of this day. Thus, there is a need to educate and aware people of Vitiligo. Even educated people associate Vitiligo with a lot of stigmas. Society should accept vitiligo patients as a part of themselves. It can be achieved only through mass awareness campaigns. Governments should organize awareness campaigns through social, print, and electronic media by dispelling the misconceptions and misunderstandings prevalent among the members of society.
Various coping techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy should be promoted among the patients of Vitiligo so that it can help them in alleviating their psychological burden. Moreover, the use of camouflage is another harmless procedure that might help the patients in coming out of the humiliation and guilt. Interacting with society and making them understand that Vitiligo is just a cosmetic disease, which is not of contagious nature. The patients suffering from skin disorders must be supported so they can also enjoy their rights and live a happy and peaceful life.
Author : Kaustubh Kumar, 4th Year law student at the National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi, in case of any query, contact us at Global Patent Filing or write back us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.