The brutal murder of a toddler in Tanzania has reignited the outcry over violence against albinos in the country…
One-year-old Yohana Bahati was abducted by an armed gang overnight in northern Tanzania. Three days later, police announced his body had been found, with his limbs missing.
Bahati’s mother is reportedly hospitalised in a serious condition after trying to defend her child. The killing comes after a recent ban on witch doctors.
“The government has banned witchdoctors but it’s said that the politicians use these superstitions for winning elections,” Senyagwa Mbeswa lamented.
More Than 70 Albinos in Tanzania Have Been Killed in the Past 10 Years
According to the United Nations, more than 70 albinos in Tanzania have been killed in the past 10 years. The UN has warned that upcoming elections could fuel further violence against Tanzanians who are living with albinism.
Erroneous Belief that People with Albinism Are Not Humans Persists
In Tanzania, myths and misguided beliefs in witchcraft continue to fuel violence against people with albinism. Tanzanians are being mutilated for their body parts, as those who believe in superstition claim that an albino hand or leg can be used to gain power and wealth.
The language used in Tanzania to describe people with albinism also fuels the mythology. Often considered “ghosts”, the erroneous belief that people with albinism are not humans persists, despite myth-busting campaigns.
The stigma stems in part from superstition. Many in Tanzania believe that people with albinism can bring bad luck to a community.
At the same time, their body parts are falsely believed to be magical, and used as amulets or in potions from witch doctors. Maria Sarungi Tsehai, a Tanzanian said, “There is something seriously wrong with us as a nation.”
Albinism is more prevalent in Africa than anywhere else the prejudices against albinism are horrific. It is a genetic condition that results in the lack of pigment in skin, hair and eyes. One in 1,400 people in Tanzania have albinism, compared to 1 in 20,000 people in the West.
Albino Body Parts Sell for about $600 in Tanzania, an Entire Corpse $75,000
A UN official warned that the recent violence towards people with albinism is related to the elections cycle and upcoming 2015 vote, as some seeking wealth and power turn to witchcraft.
Because of the myths, albino body parts fuel a valuable black market. Albino body parts believed to be lucky charms – sell for about $600 in Tanzania, an entire corpse $75,000.
Many have criticized the government’s response to the violence, pointing to the low prosecution rates for crimes against people with albinism.
More Preventative measures from the government have also come under fire. Critics, including the UN, say the Tanzanian policy of placing children with albinism in state- run-centers does not go far enough to protect them from violence.
In addition to segregating the children and separating them from their families, some also worry about the conditions at the overcrowded centers where instances of physical and sexual abuse have been reported.
Ikponwosa Ero of Under The Same Sun, an NGO that works with people with albinism in Tanzania, calls for laws to specifically protect the rights of people with albinism.
Rose Mwalimu · Media Consultant/Trainer at UNE said: “When we growing up we were told to run away once we meet people with albinism. Also if a pregnant woman sees a person with albinism he was told to son her stomach to drive the curse. So as you can see it has come a long way. It is deep rooted and will change with time.
“For change to take place there is need to educate people to go in line with advocacy work. We want to build a future with human dignity and respect. The government, like-minded people, the media and politicians at large have to hands to end this brutality, ‘she concluded.
Adapted from The Stream.