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Albinism: “Cost cannot be an excuse when fighting violence and discrimination” – New UN report

NEW YORK (26 October 2016) – United Nations human expert Ikponwosa Ero today called on all government representatives gathered at the UN General Assembly to take urgent measures to put an end to the growing problem of violence and extreme discrimination against persons with albinism.

“Attacks against persons with albinism can be dealt with by concrete action addressing root causes,” said the first-ever Independent Expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on the situation of human rights of persons with albinism in the world. “Given their relative size, cost cannot be an excuse in addressing the dire straits faced by persons with albinism.”

In her latest report* to the UN General Assembly on the root causes of attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism, Ms. Ero identifies concrete steps in law, such as regulating the practice of witchcraft in all its forms, embarking on long term and sustained awareness raising as well as initiatives improving support to mothers of children with albinism.

“Root cause of attacks are found in traditional and culturally entrenched misbeliefs and misconceptions about albinism such as the myth that persons with albinism are ghosts, that they do not die but they disappear,” she said, “These contribute to minimizing the social impact of attacks and justify alleged disappearance.”

The Independent Expert stressed that “a key impact of these myths is family and community abandonment of the child with albinism and oftentimes their mothers as well.”

“Witchcraft beliefs and practices are also at the root of these attacks,” she added. It is for example believed “that drinking the blood of persons with albinism gives extra magical power, that the bones of persons with albinism can help discover gold in mines, their hands are burned to ashes and mixed in a paste to cure strokes; blood of persons with albinism is used to boost vitality and intellectual capacity.”

The report further finds that poverty is also a root cause of such attacks. “In view of the reported black market value of body parts of persons with albinism, the perceived possibility of becoming rich quickly is a strong incentive for attacks,” Ms. Ero explained.

“Aside from myths, witchcraft practice and poverty there are also aggravating factors, including the visibility of persons with albinism, particularly in regions where they stand out given their pigmentation, the characterization of persons with albinism in films and literature that perpetuate misconceptions, impunity and weak judicial response to  attacks,” the human rights expert noted.

(*) Check the Independent Expert’s report: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/71/255

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. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Albinism/Pages/IEAlbinism.aspx

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the special website: “People with albinism: not ghosts, but human beings - http://albinism.ohchr.org/

For inquiries and media requests, please contact please contact Arnaud Chaltin (+41 22 917 9188 / achaltin@ohchr.org) or write to albinism@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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