A professing Kenyan Christian woman killed her child born with albinism, Esther Moraa, in August 2010.
In court, the mother claimed that her husband had convinced her to kill the baby since she was born with albinism and, hence, a bad omen and a disgrace to the family.
She was jailed for one year, but her husband was left scot free. In Kenya and in many parts of the world, many women have been divorced by their husbands and shunned by families after giving birth to children with albinism.
They have been accused of sleeping with men of other races, of being cursed and unclean; and of being witches.
National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust national programmes manager, Grey Kalindekafe, says such are the myths behind perpetuating violence against persons with albinism.
Kalindekafe observes that in most communities across the world, albinism is hardly (or not) understood, leading to various myths and misconceptions surrounding the condition.
“This is amplified in the sub-Saharan Africa largely because the light skin tone of persons with albinism stands out sharply in communities whose members are predominantly dark skinned.
“It is very unfortunate that persons with albinism continue to suffer stigma, prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination in our communities irrespective of the combined efforts by government and the civil society,” he says.
Kalindekafe emphasises that it is also worrying that Malawi continues to register the worst cases of violence targeting children with albinism, including hiding them from the public, forbidding from socialising with others and treating them as outcasts in the community.
Statistics from the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, since 2009 there have been increasing numbers of abductions, killings and exhumations of the remains of persons with albinism in Malawi, with most of the cases being reported in districts bordering Mozambique such as Mulanje, Phalombe and Machinga.
The ministry says the reason for this increase is not clear but according to activists in Malawi there could be organised gangs which are still to be identified, as well as opportunistic attacks on the basis of rumours that one can get large sums of money from selling bones.
In some instances, attackers have included close relatives such as fathers and uncles, who collude with criminal gangs.
At least 18 persons with albinism are estimated to have been killed since the attacks started in 2009.
However, Amnesty International (AI), a global movement of more than 7 million people who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all, believes the number of those killed and abducted could be higher because there is no systematic monitoring and documentation by the authorities of crimes against people with albinism.
Eighty-eight year old Khomawekha Zimba of Mateyu Zimba Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mzikuola in Mzimba thinks there is potential for the country to deal with the problem if authorities can consider engaging elderly persons on the issue.
Zimba says attacks against persons with albinism are largely because of the traditional thought that the condition is ‘a curse or as some form of punishment’ from the gods or the ancestors for something wrong done by the parents.
“Hence, since abductions and killings of persons with albinism border on myths, human rights activists and civic educators should consider engaging the elderly in the fight against the vice. In my youth days, parents used to tell us that albinos don’t die, they just disappear.
Principal Secretary (PS) for Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Mary Shawa seemed to agree when she told the media in Lilongwe on the sidelines of the national stakeholders’ validation workshop for albinism study report last Friday that it may be a tall order for government and its partners to sideline custodians of culture, traditions and beliefs in the struggle against perpetrators of this vice.
Shawa stated that government would welcome every initiative that aims to work with the elderly in dispelling myths surrounding and perpetuating hunting, abductions and murders of persons with albinism in the country.
According to AI, the hunting, abductions and murders of persons with albinism is an affront to the dignity and sanctity of the human body as guaranteed under international human rights law.