What It Takes To Be An Albino

Albinism is a rare, genetically inherited variance present at birth[i]. It is not infectious or contagious. Inside the African societies, people with albinism look distinctly different from others as they do not have black skin[ii].  People with albinism are considered as people with disabilities. They require continuous special skin care, especially in maintaining their white skin. In Tanzania, only 2 percent of them pass the age of 40, and less than 10 percent survives the age of 30 as they die prematurely of skin cancer due to lack of melanin[iii].

Albino.jpg

Albinos are everywhere in Africa, but they are rife in East Africa. Tanzania and Malawi have the heaviest population of people with albinism in the world. In Tanzania alone, there are approximately 170, 000 albinos, making it the country with the highest rate of these masses[iv].

Notwithstanding, there are misconceptions and conjectural myths about Albinism[v]. Most consider the albinos as ghosts. As a consequence, people with albinism are stigmatised. To be an albino means to be an outcast.  They are facing severe persecution such as discrimination, abduction, ritual abuse, mutilation, bullying[vi], and barbaric killing. Perpetrators are, for the most part, close relatives, acquaintances, and neighbours.  Ignorance and lack of educational awareness drive many to speculate that people with albinism have magical abilities. Due to endless bullying or fear of being abducted to ritual killings, some children with albinism are forced to stay away from schools and playgrounds[vii].  Most Albinos murdered were for money-scheme ritual process as there are beliefs that their body parts can usher in money, employment success, and stroke of luck[viii]. In Malawi, even after they have been laid to rest, there have been 39 reported instances of ritual killers exhuming and kidnapping the albinos’ corpses, and some arrested in possession of albinos’ bones[ix]. Some of them have had their limbs cut off for witchcraft rituals. Women and children with albinism are the most vulnerable. The adult females are cited as Machilisto[x], which means ‘cure’ in Malawian. Female albinos are being raped because of the theory that anyone infected with HIV/AIDS who have sex with them will be cured[xi][xii].

Since 2000 to date, 448 assaults on albinos have been reported in 25 African nations[xiii]. Last year, the Tanzanian police cracked down on 32 witch-doctors who were found guilty of killing almost 75 albinos for ritual[xiv]. In 2010, around 10 people were condemned to death for murdering people with albinism[xv].

Nevertheless, the persecution of albinos continues. Many of them, particularly the Malawians and Tanzanians albinos at this moment in time live in perpetual fear of terror. Some lucky ones have succeeded in fleeing their countries to seek asylum elsewhere. Under the Same Sun[xvi], is one of the NGOs helping Tanzania people with albinism.

Sadly, their governments fail to protect them[xvii]. Most shockingly, many high-level African politicians are now being accused and suspected of killing albinos for ritual in order to win their elections[xviii].  Whitney Chilumpha, a toddler with albinism was abducted at night while sleeping with her mother and dismembered[xix]. A few days ago, local residents found a bag containing the torso of a six-year-old albino boy, known as Faztudo Filipe, in the Mudzingandze province of Maputo, Mozambique[xx]. The assailants had gone off with his arms, legs and other parts of his body.

The problem is not just the focus on the failure of the concerned governing bodies to guarantee adequate security for these people. One ought not to forget that this issue has a cultural base. The discourse of superstitious regarding albinism is embedded in the African culture, and the general mentality of the people is well-grounded on the subject. If one cannot get through to the grassroots to convince the people that discrimination of the albino is a criminal offense against humanity; there is virtually little that can be done at the national level. The people’s frame of mind has to shift. Albinos are human beings, and not ghosts. Hence, they deserve the right to life. #StopkillingAlbinos

[i] (de Chazournes, 2014)

[ii] (Lund, et al., 2015)

[iii] (Global Disability Watch , 2016)

[iv] (United Nations, 2009)

[v] (Office Of The High Commissoner Human Rights, s.d.)

[vi] (Lund, et al., 2015)

[vii] (Brune-Lockhart, et al., 2013; 2014)

[viii] (Akbar, 2016)

[ix] (Foreign Affairs Publisher, 2016)

[x] (Moreno, 2016)

[xi] (Amnesty International, 2016)

[xii] (Foreign Affairs Publisher, 2016)

[xiii] (Global Disability Watch , 2016)

[xiv] (Reuters in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 2015)

[xv] (Brune-Lockhart, et al., 2013; 2014)

[xvi] (Under The Same Sun, s.d.)

[xvii] (Amnesty International, 2016)

[xviii] (Ghanaweb, 2016)

[xix] (Foreign Affairs Publisher, 2016)

[xx] (Allafrica, 2016)

Published by

Feminist Church

Princess Ayelotan is a writer/poet, feminist and independent researcher. Her scholarly interest ranges widely, from — Creative Writing related to Gender issues; — Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), — Rape as a weapon of war, — Violence against disabled women, — Child Sexual Exploitation : e.g. child prostitution and trafficking, — Female economic empowerment — Activism.

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