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Women, Mothers of Children with Albinism Suffer Worst Discrimination, Report Finds


FILE - Baraka Lusambo, 7, Pendo Noni 16, Emmanuel Rutema, 15, and Mwigulu Magesaa 14, Tanzanians with albinism who had body parts chopped off in witchcraft-driven attacks, relax at a home in the Staten Island borough of New York City, June 4, 2017.

Women with albinism themselves, and those whose children have the condition, suffer undue discrimination and stigmatization, a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council concludes.

Ikponwosa Ero, a Nigerian activist who is herself an albino, became the human rights council's first independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with Albinism in 2015. She has done much to eliminate pernicious myths surrounding albinism. Her new report describes excessive abuse and discrimination women with albinism or whose children have albinism suffer because of their gender.

She said women are abandoned by their families. Mothers of children with albinism are blamed for their condition and often banished from their communities. She said women with albinism are physically attacked and accused of witchcraft. She said they suffer sexual violence on various grounds, including the belief that such intercourse can cure HIV/AIDS.

“Mothers of children with the condition are stigmatized right from the birth of their child with albinism and throughout life. Major barriers to access to health ostracizes mothers and exposes them and their children to poverty and further human rights violations,” said Ero.

Albinism is a rare genetic disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. It is particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. Those with the condition often are killed for their parts, which some believe can transmit magical powers. Such beliefs are widespread in countries such as Tanzania, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.

Ero wants countries to act to end racial discrimination and institute policies to end harmful practices, particularly those centered on accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks against women with albinism.

She said special programs should be put into place to help these women with albinism and their children out of poverty through training so they can earn an independent living.

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