In several parts of Africa, people living with albinism are believed to have bones that contain magical properties. Misconceptions persist that body parts of persons with albinism bring fortune and good health. Research has it that a corpse could be worth up to US$75 000 on the black market compelling family members to be complicit. This myth has triggered an upsurge in albino deaths across the continent.
According to reports, there have been 422 reported attacks since the beginning of the new millennium including 162 documented murders of people with albinism and 260 cases of missing persons, assault, mutilation, rape, attempted abductions, grave violence and other acts of violence. At least two people with albinism have been killed in Malawi in 2016 alone while five others are missing.
As with many stigmatised communities, women and girls with albinism are predominantly susceptible to discrimination leaving them isolated. There are instances where mothers of children with albinism are also persecuted for just giving birth to a child with albinism. Studies show that women and girls with albinism are likely to experience more sexual violence as a result of persistent myths. In countries like Zimbabwe, it is rumoured that it cures HIV& AIDS. Marginalised girls with albinism are impacted then affected emotionally, physically and then psychologically as they grow up in a society that is intolerant of their existence. Risks include low self-esteem and little confidence, dropping out of school, isolating themselves from classmates, family and the community. These violations against persons with albinism constitute a violation of fundamental human rights, as enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the UN. Article 2 of the UDHR states that all of the rights in the UDHR apply universally “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex…or other status,” while Article 3 recognises the fact that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”.
There have been concerns raised especially with recent reports of continued attacks, abductions, exhumation of graveyard and killings of persons with albinism in Malawi. Although some countries have shown political will to end violence against people with albinism, this is unfortunately not being translated into action. UAF-Africa provided a rapid response grant to Disabled Women in Africa together with Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi. This grant went towards both groups to mobilisation of other women’s human rights organisations and activists to highlight the killing and suffering of women and children with albinism and call for strengthened systems that would put an end to the persecution. The two organisations, their partners and communities are advocating for the amendment of the Malawi Disabilities Act to include issues of persons with albinism.
UAF-Africa has previously supported an organisation in Malawi in 2015 for community awareness meetings on the promotion of Albino rights. In Burundi, our support went towards research and documentation as part of media campaigns to discredit myths that led to increased killing of persons living with albinism in the country. In the DRC, the Fund provided a protection grant to a women’s human rights defender (WHRD), who was under threat due to her activism and advocacy for Albino rights. While in Kenya, the Fund supported the launch of ‘In my Genes’, a film that shared the positive story of a young Albino woman who overcame the social limitations attached to albinism.
UAF-Africa is cognisant of the fact that stigmatised conditions like albinism affect men and women differently with women and girls particularly further exposed to the vagaries of culture, patriarchy and other systems that serve to subjugate and dispossess women of their dignity, bodily autonomy and safety. It is in this vein that the Fund advocates against such forms of torture and violations by engaging with organizations and communities that embrace multi-pronged approaches to curb this menace.