UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein ahead of the first-ever International Albinism Awareness Day, 13 June 2015

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra'ad Photo : UNHCR

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad Photo : UNHCR

Geneva, 11 June 2015 – The World’s first-ever day for Albinism Awareness, is an opportunity to celebrate the talents and achievements of people with albinism, and to join the struggle against the challenges they face.

In every society, babies are born with albinism, due to a recessive gene that is carried by both parents.  But across the world, these children are likely to face bullying, prejudice and even violence because of stereotypes based on the colour of their skin. They frequently cannot access adequate healthcare, although albinism may impair their vision and increase their risk of skin cancers.  Failure to accommodate this visual impairment, as well as mockery and abuse, may force them to drop out of school; compounded by widespread social rejection, this can result in unemployment, isolation and life-long poverty.

In some parts of the world, people with albinism may also suffer horrific, and sometimes lethal, atrocities. Civil society activists have reported that hundreds of people with albinism – a majority of them children – have been killed, mutilated or otherwise attacked in at least 25 African countries, because of the belief that their body parts confer magical powers. More cases remain undocumented because of the isolation of the victims, the secrecy surrounding ritual practices, and indifference. Shockingly, such crimes have seldom been investigated or prosecuted.

Recently, discrimination and violence against individuals with albinism have been highlighted by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as by my Office.  In coming weeks, a UN Independent Expert will be appointed to give an international voice to the concerns of people with albinism, and to contribute to protecting their rights. In Tanzania and Malawi, efforts are underway to develop nation-wide strategies to combat the violence and discrimination that they suffer. Meanwhile, civil society activists around the world continue their essential and inspiring work to fight stigma, combat harmful superstition, and ensure that victims have access to justice, care and redress.

There is no room in this 21st century for erroneous and harmful beliefs, or for discrimination on any grounds. People with albinism are just as deserving of dignity as every other human being. They have the right to live free from discrimination, deprivation and fear.  I call on States to step up education to counteract ignorance about albinism, and to provide appropriate care. In addition, they must investigate cases of discrimination and violence against people with albinism, and enforce the law.  I also encourage civil society activists and human rights institutions to continue reporting on the human rights of people with albinism around the world.  Awareness is the groundwork for action, and this first International Albinism Awareness Day is a beacon of hope for people with albinism everywhere.

For video footage of the High Commissioner delivering the above statement, please visit: https://youtu.be/TFiXp0fgNWY

Please also visit  the fully accessible new micro-site on the OHCHR website dedicated to the issue of albinism: http://albinism.ohchr.org/

ENDS