Branding practices in rural India should be banned

February 24, 2005

The superstitious practice known as 'branding treatment' in rural India should be banned, urge researchers in this week's BMJ.

Branding or inflicting burns over the body as a remedy for illnesses such as pneumonia, jaundice, and convulsions, is a harmful practice prevalent in rural India. Children and young babies are worst affected by this superstitious practice, which causes serious ill health and delays in seeking proper medical care.

Researchers investigated this practice after noting that many young children attending a rural health centre had scars from branding over their chest.

Off 144 children under 5 years, 20 had been branded for either pneumonia or convulsions, and eight had been branded to protect against pneumonia. All of them belonged to Hindu families, illiterate parents, and families in lower socioeconomic groups.

In-depth interviews with the parents of branded children and villagers revealed that all 28 children had been branded by a native healer in a nearby village.

The people believed that the evil potion comes out through the branding sites, curing the disease. Most of the parents interviewed were also branded in their childhood, and there was a tendency for this practice to be followed through generations.

Inflicting burns over normal children is a non-scientific painful procedure and is unacceptable, say the authors. Stringent laws should be enforced to ban this harmful practice.


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