Albinism Rights Project
The albinism rights project is aimed to protect, promote and defend the fundamental human rights of persons with albinism in Nigeria.
The development of human rights within a country is critical to establishing stability and security within a population. When human rights are ignored, the marginalization of certain persons within a society typically prevent such a group from participating in and benefitting from development.
Persons with albinism face discrimination and barriers that restrict their participation in society on an equal basis with others every day. Due to those many challenges, persons with albinism throughout the world are unable to enjoy the full range of human rights and the same standards of equality, rights and dignity as others. While some of those challenges are global, others have predominantly been identified in certain regions like Nigeria. There are legal policy foundations to most of the human rights violations faced by persons with albinism, however, they have not yet been consolidated and there are no specific instruments or guidelines on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.
During a press release in Nigeria, in March 2014, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights alluded to the specific discrimination faced by persons with albinism and the extra vulnerability faced by children with albinism. She stated “One group at particular risk are some 800,000 children among the 2 million people living with albinism in Nigeria. Many of them are not in school because of visual impairment, discrimination from other children, and social exclusion as a result of their skin colour.”
Nigeria is yet to enact such legislation on the rights of persons with albinism even though it has signed and ratified by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. Article 4 of the Convention mandates member states “to adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention.”
Recently in Eastern Africa, attention has been drawn to the plight of Persons with Albinism due to cases of them being hunted for witchcraft. Even though, there have been one or two official reports of such events in Nigeria, there is growing fear that it is only a matter of time this trend will escalate. Even with the little threat of being hunted, those with albinism in Nigeria face a host of medical, political and societal difficulties.
If there is a limitation that affects enjoyment of rights that cannot be handled by the individual, the state has a duty to come in. International Human Rights impose the obligation on governments to provide for its people. Albinism in Nigeria presents an interesting case of combined medical and societal concerns of a marginalized group in a developing country. Analysis of the current international, regional and domestic laws and initiatives reveals inefficiencies in addressing the case of persons with albinism. Though, there is a national policy on albinism, unfortunately, this policy has not been implemented. It is possible that such an inefficiency could also be applicable to cases outside of albinism.
The challenges persons with albinism face in having their cases brought to justice are grounded in the vulnerability of the population and include: the fear of attacks, reprisals or further stigmatization; difficulties in finding witnesses owing to the ostracism they face within their community and, frequently, the involvement of family and community members in the discrimination; the lack of awareness of legal rights; the lack of financial resources; the inadequate capacity of the judicial system to address such cases; the lack of legal aid and adequate legal representation; and the lack of knowledge of or confidence in the law enforcement and justice systems.
Another issue is the inter-linkage between discrimination and impunity. There are little legal data available on all cases. Where there has been information, it is reported that persons with albinism are discriminated throughout the whole judicial process and that their basic human rights continue to be violated. Corruption and shortcomings in the justice system, compounded with the specific challenges faced by persons with albinism in accessing justice fail to translate initial action of the police into concrete results in the fight against impunity. Moreover, law enforcement authorities and judicial authorities share the same superstitious beliefs entrenched in the communities, sometimes considering persons with albinism as sub-human beings. In addition to the significant difficulties persons with albinism encounter in accessing justice, remedies and redress are extremely limited, even in the form of medical rehabilitation and psychological support.
The severity of the violations against persons with albinism and the particular vulnerability of this population requires States not only to take a more active role in their responsibility to protect but also to take effective measures to prevent poverty and improve access to all rights. As mentioned in OHCHR’s preliminary report, the responsibility to protect and prevent is particularly relevant in cases of persons in vulnerable situations, such as persons with albinism, and in circumstances where the authorities are aware of the real and imminent danger faced by such persons and communities.
The Albinism Rights Project cannot be successful without the support of the state, individuals, international communities and members of the public. We, therefore urge for the support of the foundation for the realisation of this rights that have eluded the albinism community over the years.
The outcomes of the activities of this project when implemented include but not limited to the following:
- Improved access to justice system for persons with albinism especially women and children through sensitisation workshops for judges and security agencies
- Empowered persons with albinism with the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to protect and defend their rights through train the trainer workshops for persons with albinism
Engaged relevant stakeholders on the need for the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with albinism through advocacy meetings and sensitisation with relevant agencies of government, CSOs, FBOs, media etc.
Awareness is cognizance, illumination, knowing. It is the lifting and exposure of something previously hidden in darkness, or in this case, ignorance.
Unlike some other conditions that develop in the course of life, albinism is congenital and acquired during fetal development by two fully pigmented individuals who carry the genes. Even though it is not essentially hereditary, as it jumps between generations, it still inherently remains in the bloodline.
The reduction or full absence of pigmentation in the eyes, skin and hair of a person with albinism does not in any way affect the functionality of their brain or personality; that is why it is crucial to have proper awareness of the condition; what it is and isn’t; so that behavioral patterns towards these people is not negative. Behavioral patterns of society, either negatively or positively, strongly affects and determines the sway of their psyche and in a society that is predominantly fixated on normal outward appearances, it comes as no small wonder that whatever confronts that norm is met with resistance and hostility.
The ignorance of families and the society in general, has firstly manifested itself through sunburn, freckles and in worst case scenarios, terminal skin cancer in persons with albinism. Many of the persons with albinism themselves remain ignorant on proper skin prevention and care, leaving many of them unhappy and unattractive, which further pushes them into isolation and a poor sense of self. Only the percentage whose parents were enlightened enough to infuse their children/wards with a healthy sense of self have gone ahead to break barriers and reach for their dreams.
Secondly, the same ignorance has made parents of children with albinism, write off their children as being unintelligent, unfocused and stubborn, not realizing that visual impairment was the culprit, and the children in their frustration of not knowing how to express themselves, become rebellious.
It is therefore essentially imperative that society begins to take critical notice about the cause of albinism, so they can play their role in creating the much needed change of a comfortable environment for persons with albinism to thrive in as every individual, irrespective of gender, race or disability, is an extension of one’s self, and as such, needs to be fully accepted and granted the utmost respect and the highest regard.
TAF’s efforts, in partnership with the Nigerian media, though commendable, is merely an ink drop of knowledge in an ocean of ignorance and requires much more support, especially from the public. As the African adage says, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Without doubt, there is no basis of comparison between what an individual is able to achieve against what an entire community can.
Through aggressive media drives, social media, sensitization workshops, trainings, pamphlets and booklets, the foundation has pushed out into the public space, as much information on albinism as it can, cognizant of the strength that proper awareness has in bringing about social change.