OPINION: Stop abuse of people with albinism

While myths about particular groupings in a society can be hurtful, those about people living with albinism, can be deadly.

In provinces like KwaZulu-Natal, people with this condition live in fear because of the existence of a lucrative market for the body parts of people with albinism, which are used as muti.

There are reports that their body parts are even smuggled out of the country, and that these people are being trafficked.

Some people even believe that they disappear, rather than dying like the rest of us when our time here on earth is up.

One day I saw a television programme which I couldn’t watch all the way to the end because it brought tears to my eyes. It was about witch doctors killing people with albinism. It showed an old woman who was crying, afraid to go outside because she may be killed. Her son had been kidnapped and was nowhere to be found.

I feel our politicians need to step in. When politically motivated killings occur, they establish commissions. Perhaps the same urgent action can be taken when people with albinism are killed for muti or because of the myths about them.

But don’t get me wrong. Society as a whole should be taking responsibility and helping to put an end to this terrible practice.

Albinism is nothing but a condition, which is defined as “a rare group of genetic disorders that cause the skin, hair, or eyes to have little or no colour”.

But the superstitions, beliefs and perceptions about it are shocking, and we need to challenge these myths.

Traditional healers need to be dragged to a commission and tell us what are they doing with the body parts of people with albinism and why they allow the misinformation to continue.

You’ll also find that people with albinism suffer verbal and physical abuse in their communities, often to such an extent
that they do not want to leave home.

In a tiny area by the name if Zwezwe in Khayelitsha, I have visited people with albinism who told me about what they regularly go through, and I was hurt to see young children staying at home because they were verbally abused at school and on the streets.

It was disheartening to listen to the father narrating how these school children hurled insults at him and pelted him and his shack with stones.

And this happened in full few of the community – and of the children’s parents.

I also call on the schools to educate young pupils so that they do not act out of ignorance against people who are different from them.

It is all of our responsibility to stop stigmatisation, mutilations and brutal killing of our people.

We have the power to include people with albinism in our activities and to stop mockery and exclusion.