Skip to main content

About albinism and human rights

Independent Expert on albinism

Albinism is a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition which occurs worldwide regardless of ethnicity or gender. It most commonly results in the lack of melanin pigment in the hair, skin and eyes (oculocutaneous albinism), causing vulnerability to sun exposure. 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.

Persons with albinism are a unique group whose human rights issues have generally gone unnoticed for centuries; the result being deeply engraved stigma, discrimination and violence against them across various countries. The complexity and uniqueness of the condition means that their experiences significantly and simultaneously touch on several human rights issues including, but not limited to, discrimination based on colour, discrimination based on disability, special needs in terms of access to education, the right to the enjoyment of the highest standards of health, the right to life which should guarantee them protection against harmful traditional practices, violence including killings and ritual attacks, trade and trafficking of body parts for witchcraft purposes, infanticide and abandonment of children.

In some countries—primarily in some parts of Africa, where people with albinism are hypervisible—the physical appearance of people with albinism has been the object of erroneous beliefs and myths influenced by superstition, witchcraft, or both. 

In creating the mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by people with albinism, the Human Rights Council reaffirmed that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person and that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It also recalled the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and the need for persons with albinism to be guaranteed the full enjoyment of their rights and freedoms without discrimination.