Breaking the silence: confronting violence against people with albinism

Once, during a flight to an overseas destination, I found myself seated next to a Sudanese man whose impassioned words left a lasting impression.

He confided, ‘I am deeply ashamed of certain practices in my country. You see, women can be publicly flogged for what is deemed indecent behavior.

The existence of such laws sometimes makes me hesitate to admit my nationality, as I hail from a place where women are treated akin to livestock, subjected to public floggings and relegated to toil in the fields.’

His pause was heavy with disappointment, etched visibly on his face.

As his words lingered, I grappled with my own sense of dismay, reflecting on the persecution and violence faced by people with albinism in my homeland.

I couldn't help but wonder: if such brutality is inflicted upon women for subjective reasons, how much worse might it be for those who are believed to possess body parts capable of bestowing fortune?

The flight itself was turbulent, a metaphor perhaps for the unsettling thoughts it stirred within me. Little did I anticipate that recent events would exacerbate this sense of unease.

News of the abduction of Asiimwe Novath, a toddler with albinism, shook me to the core. It was a stark reminder of the deep-seated prejudice and danger faced by individuals with albinism in my own country.

This renewed disappointment reignited memories of that fateful flight and the haunting question it posed.

Now, faced with the grim reality of violence and exploitation, I find myself grappling with a sense of helplessness and indignation.

If witnessing the flogging of women left my Sudanese acquaintance ashamed, how should I, as a citizen of a country where such atrocities persist, begin to reckon with the brutality inflicted upon people with albinism?

The answer eludes me, leaving me searching for clarity and purpose before my next journey.

It's imperative that we confront the barbarism that festers within our societies and advocate for a world where disability is not equated with incapacity and where such egregious beliefs find no haven.

While we all belong to the human family, divergent paths emerge when it comes to understanding albinism. Some individuals opt to dive into the scientific understanding of albinism as a genetic condition marked by a deficiency of pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes, while others gravitate towards unfounded superstitions.

These myths, entrenched in baseless beliefs, fuel a lucrative underground market for the trade of body parts of individuals with albinism, falsely believed to bring wealth and good fortune. Consequently, individuals with albinism become targets of ritualistic attacks, their bodies exploited for purported uses in witchcraft or traditional medicine.

Historically, the birth of children with albinism has been met with fear and rejection in many African cultures, Tanzania included.

Such births were often viewed as omens of misfortune, with communities fearing dire consequences unless drastic measures were taken.

Consequently, children with albinism were often ostracized or worse, perceived as threats to communal well-being.

In recent years, this fear has manifested in the form of targeted violence and exploitation.

Individuals with albinism have become prey to ritualistic attacks, their bodies mutilated, and their lives endangered in pursuit of perceived mystical properties.

This has transformed the plight of people with albinism from one of social exclusion to a grave human rights crisis.

The recent spate of attacks underscores the urgency of addressing this crisis.

Despite legislative and administrative efforts, violence against people with albinism continues unabated, perpetuating a culture of impunity and fear.

It is incumbent upon us to challenge these entrenched beliefs and dismantle the systemic barriers that perpetuate discrimination and violence.

This journey toward change demands a collective effort. We must prioritize education and awareness-raising initiatives to dispel myths and foster empathy within our communities.

Strengthening legal protections and ensuring accountability for perpetrators of violence are equally imperative steps in this endeavor.

As we confront this dark reality, let us stand united in our commitment to justice and equality for all.

Each of us has a role to play in advocating for the rights and dignity of people with albinism.

Let us raise our voices in solidarity and strive for a future where every individual is valued and respected, regardless of their appearance or condition.

Silence is not an option—we must speak out against injustice wherever it may arise.

Rose is a lawyer and a concerned citizen, championing equality and access to justice. 

Email: [email protected]

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