Reports Reveal Horrific Attacks Against People with Albinism

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — On Dec. 18, 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming June 13 as International Albinism Awareness Day, designed to protect and preserve the rights of persons with albinism to life, dignity and security, as well as their right not to be subject to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

This year, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, attorney Muluka-Anne Miti-Drummond gave her first report as the Independent Expert on the status of human rights of people with albinism.

“Only a few days ago, I received disturbing reports of attacks and abductions of persons with albinism, in two different countries, both of which had little or no known attacks against persons with albinism until the recent months,” said Miti-Drummond.

“One of the victims was a child whose body was reportedly thrown into a river after her eyes and organs had been removed, no doubt for ritual purposes.”

In the past decade, UN Human Rights has received reports of more than 600 attacks against children and adults with albinism. Witchcraft was identified as one of the root causes of these attacks, as some believe that the body parts of people with albinism can bestow fortune on those who possess them.

Miti-Drummond called the shocking attacks against people with albinism, such as the incidents she described to the Council, “hate crimes and harmful practices.”

Albinism is a genetic condition resulting in little or no pigmentation in the skin, hair, and eyes. The most common and most severe type in sub-Saharan Africa is ocular albinism which gives people white hair, pink skin, low vision or blindness and a greater susceptibility to skin cancer.

Albinism is genetically inherited and, while prevalence varies from region to region, some of the highest rates are found in sub-Saharan Africa. Thousands are living with albinism in Senegal, in Kenya, and Tanzania reportedly has the highest number of people living with albinism. The Cameroon Association for the Promotion of Albinos has reported that neglect by parents upon the birth of their child with albinism and infanticide is common.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, albino hunters sell an entire human corpse for up to $75,000, while an arm or a leg could fetch about $2,000. It is also common that albino graves are dug up and desecrated to procure body parts.

Albinism is profoundly misunderstood, socially and medically. The physical appearance of persons with albinism is often the object of erroneous beliefs and myths influenced by superstition, which foster their marginalization and social exclusion. This leads to various forms of stigma and discrimination.

Salif Keita, a Malian singer-songwriter and a member of the Keita royal family of Mali, has routinely used his star status to raise awareness about albinism.

“The situation of albinos must be better known throughout the world,” the acclaimed Malian singer said.

“The defence of the cause of albinos requires more support on all forms in order to be able to deter those involved in inhumane treatment.”

“I was born an albino and my life has not been easy,” he said. “I tried to live conscious of this reality and established this foundation. I tried to do something for especially children, people with albinism that had no access to education.”

People with albinism in Africa face a range of prejudices and social stigmas. They are often dismissed as belonging to another race, or as ghosts or spirits.

This year, five albinos were sacrificed in Mali. During election time, the situation is more serious. “When there is an election, we try to keep them safe to avoid the worst,” said Keita. “When a big personality asks to sacrifice an albino, he is not punished because he has the power. We need the rest of the world to join our cause so that we can punish those involved in albino sacrifices.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 08 June 2022]

Photo: A caregiver attends to an abandoned toddler with albinism in Goma, North Kivu, DRC, 2007. Credit: UN Photo/Marie Frechon.

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