World Albinism Awareness Day is being observed across the globe today, with the theme “Still Standing Strong”.
The day is marked to recognize, celebrate and stand in solidarity with persons with albinism around the world, and to support their cause from their accomplishments and positive practices to the promotion and protection of their human rights.
Persons with albinism have faced, and continue to face, ongoing hurdles and challenges that seriously undermine their enjoyment of human rights. From stigma and discrimination to barriers in health, education, and invisibility in social and political arenas.
In addition, in several countries, they are subject to heinous attacks and killings. People with albinism face multiple forms of discrimination worldwide.
Albinism is still 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.
In some communities, erroneous beliefs and myths, heavily influenced by superstition, put the security and lives of persons with albinism at constant risk. These beliefs and myths are centuries old and are present in cultural attitudes and practices around the world.
In the case of Ghana, despite constitutional injunctions that allow freedom of movement, persons with albinism are still prevented from entering or living in some communities in Ghana.
Article 17(2) of the 1992 Constitution states that “a person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or economic status”.
However, there are so many erroneous myths and beliefs that put the lives of persons with albinism at constant risk, leaving them in endless fear.
According to Mr Adam Abdul-Wahab, the National Advocacy and Communication Officer of the Ghana Association of Person with Albinism (GAPA), an advocacy group made up of persons living with albinism, some communities around Atebubu and Abaase in the Brong Ahafo Region and Burukuwa, in the Kwahu North District and Akwamufie all in the Eastern Region, did not permit persons with albinism to live there.
Explaining further, Abdul-Wahab said there was a time that one of their members was killed at Amanase-Boketey near Suhum in the Eastern Region allegedly for ritual purposes by a pastor.
Also, it is a taboo or a curse to give birth to an albino in some parts of Africa with some people attributing the condition to bewitchment in a family or a curse from the gods or from ancestors.
Others also hold the belief that people with albinism never die and having sex with a woman with albinism cures AIDS, while some say it is the mother’s fault if a child has albinism.
The most dangerous of all is the belief that a charm made from the body parts of an albino has magical powers that bring wealth, success and good luck.
As a result, several people living with the condition have been persecuted and killed in certain parts of Africa including parts of Tanzania, Rwanda, Mozambique and other neighbouring countries.