GENEVA (3 March 2017) – A UN expert is calling for enhanced oversight of traditional healers to protect people with albinism from being attacked and mutilated so that their body parts could be used in traditional medicine and in witchcraft rituals.
More than 600 attacks and other violations have been reported in 27 countries. The majority were in the last six years, with the most recent just a few days ago. It is believed, among other things, that the body parts can bring wealth and good luck when used by people who practice witchcraft including some practitioners of traditional medicine.
Presenting a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by people with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, said the demand for the body parts of people with albinism for the purposes of witchcraft rituals, or in traditional medicine known as muti or juju, has led to the existence of a clandestine market for body parts operating at regional, national and international levels.
Ms. Ero said: “the issue is further complicated by the lack of effective oversight over the practice of traditional healers, the secrecy that often surrounds witchcraft rituals and the absence of clear national policies on the issue.”
In her report, Ms. Ero also stressed that in building policies on the issue, a dual or twin-track approach by countries would be best. Such an approach would, on the one hand, urgently deal with attacks and trafficking of body parts for muti and juju; while, on the other hand, measures should go beyond the immediate emergency of attacks to address root causes particularly myths and misbeliefs on albinism..
The Independent Expert stressed that addressing deeply rooted beliefs such as belief in the efficacy of witchcraft using human body parts, necessitates “efforts in public education, which ought to be sustained even when the most visible consequences of the issue, namely physical attacks, appear to be decreasing.”
Ms. Ikponwosa Ero (Nigeria) was designated in June 2015 as the first UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism by the Human Rights Council. Inspired by her experiences as a person with albinism, Ms. Ero spent the last seven years working on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. As international advocacy and legal officer of Under The Same Sun, an NGO with a focus on albinism, she participated in multiple activities and panels at the UN in Geneva and New York. She has extensive experience in research, policy development and advocacy in the field of albinism. She is the author of numerous papers and articles on the issue, including with regards to the categorisation of persons with albinism in the international human rights system.
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