NGOs: Sign, ratify charter to protect albino people

17Aug 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
NGOs: Sign, ratify charter to protect albino people

CIVIL society organizations in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) yesterday called on member states to swiftly sign,-

-ratify and domesticate the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the welfare of Persons with Disabilities as a regional measure to promote rights of persons with albinism (PWA).

Albinism associations, members of national parliaments and civil society organizations from across Southern Africa made the call earlier this week in Dar es Salaam, ahead of the 39th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government to discuss regional measures to promote the human rights of persons with albinism in SADC countries.

They also called upon the countries to issue an unequivocal condemnation of attacks and discrimination, and adopt a resolution for protection of persons with albinism in the SADC zone.

“Commit to regional collaboration for the protection of persons with albinism to ensure a coordinated regional response to challenges faced by persons with albinism among SADC member states,” the statement urged.

The human rights activists said SADC member countries need to put an end to all harmful practices which lead to rape for rituals and sexual violence against women and girls, along with supporting the appointment and mandate of an African Union Special Envoy on albinism.

They also urged SADC member states to adopt national action plans to protect persons with albinism in line with the Regional Action Plan on Albinism in Africa. The SADC partner states need to dwell on coordinated public education on albinism, the resolution underlined.

Across the SADC region, persons with albinism (PWA) are victims of violent attacks and transnational crimes, including murder, maiming, abductions and trade of body parts by individuals and criminal gangs operating within and across borders. Attacks, discrimination and abuse are fuelled by erroneous beliefs and myths that body parts, organs and tissues of PWA have magical powers that can be used for multiple ritual purposes.

Hundreds of persons with albinism have experienced attacks, including mutilations, kidnappings and attempted kidnappings in recent years. Approximately 150 persons with albinism have been reported killed in countries such as Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2004.

Civil society reports indicate that Tanzania has recorded high number of killings from 2004, while Mozambique and Malawi have each recorded 13 and 22 killings and kidnappings, respectively. While there has been a decline in the number of attacks in recent years, persons with albinism continue to live in fear of attacks across the region, with a 14-year-old girl with albinism reported killed in South Africa as recently as January 2018.

In Mozambique a 12-year-old girl with albinism was kidnapped and murdered during the weekend of 1-3 March 2019. Cases of attacks remain underreported across the region as many countries in the region lack a systematic mechanism of monitoring these attacks.

Persons with albinism continue to face human rights violations including stigma and discrimination, inadequate access to health and education services, apart from other social exclusions. Women and children with albinism are particularly vulnerable as they are exposed to intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination. In addition, children are particularly targeted for ritual killings and women are sometimes victims of sexual violence because of beliefs that they can cure HIV.

However, there has been some progress recorded towards combating these attacks. The SADC Parliamentary Forum recently adopted a motion condemning attacks, abductions, killings and discrimination against persons with albinism in the region during its 45th Plenary Assembly held in Maputo on 24th July. “This is a step in the right direction that brings the region closer to genuinely addressing the cycle of human rights violations against persons with albinism,” activists emphasized.