Violation of Dignity and Life: Challenges and Prospects for Women and Girls with Albinism in Sub-Saharan Africa

Abstract

The mythology of most African societies includes the belief in patriarchy and primogeniture, holding the view that succession and the continuity of family lineage are only possible through the males. As such, women are considered inferior to men and often treated with prejudice. Albinism is also treated with prejudice in African societies. This includes the belief that sexual intercourse with a woman or a girl with albinism can cure serious infections like HIV/AIDS. Thus, in addition to common forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by women in Sub-Saharan Africa, those with albinism are particularly vulnerable to rape and sexual violation. In extreme cases, especially in East and Central Africa; these women and other persons with albinism are kidnapped for sacrifice or ritual purposes. Their vital organs are harvested for preparing “charms” for magic and spiritual powers. In other cases, they are simply murdered to ensure that they do not procreate. This paper explores common myth-based violations against women with albinism in Africa. It argues that these women suffer the tragedy of double prejudice and special violations to dignity and life, contrary to standard templates of international human rights. It then suggests specific measures for dealing with these violations at all levels: societal, municipal, regional, and international. Significantly, the paper raises global consciousness on the persecution of minorities, especially women and girls with albinism in Africa.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It entered into force on 4 January 1969, and part of its Preamble states that: “…any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere.” It also resolved “to adopt all necessary measures for speedily eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and manifestations, and to prevent and combat racist doctrines and practices in order to promote understanding between races and to build an international community free from all forms of racial segregation and racial discrimination.”

  2. 2.

    Also called the Banjul Charter. Its Article 18(3) recognizes and enjoins State Parties to “ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of women and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions.” By its Article 4, “Human beings are inviolable” and entitled to respect for life and integrity. Article 2 entitles “every individual” to enjoy the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charter “without distinction of any kind” such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, national or social origin, birth, or other status.” It is hereby proposed among others, that the Charter be further amended by Protocol to specifically recognize and protect the dignity, life, and other rights of women with albinism in Africa.

  3. 3.

    Its Preamble recognizes that the inherent dignity, equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace worldwide. Articles 2.1 guarantees equal protection of the law without distinction of any kind while Article 26 prohibits “any discrimination” on grounds including color, race, or other status.

  4. 4.

    Its Preamble recognizes, among others, that cultural and socio-economic rights are inseparable from the “inherent dignity of the human person” and that “the enjoyment of the right and freedom against fear and want is only be achievable if conditions exists for enjoying of economic, socio-cultural, political and civil rights.”

  5. 5.

    Similar agitations to specifically protect women’s rights globally (despite existing gender-neutral human rights instruments) led to the enactment of innovative women-specific international instruments. They include the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 1995; the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, 2003; and especially the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (also known as the Maputo Protocol) which enjoin states to ensure equal rights of women and men.

  6. 6.

    The proposed instruments are UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Albinism (CEDAPWA), UN Convention on the Rights of Albinos (CRA), African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Albinos in Africa, as well as Albino Rights Act in Nigeria. Similar suggestions made by feminists and women rights advocates culminated in the enactment of a number of gender-specific domestic legislation and international instruments which form part of Nigeria’s current human rights jurisprudence.

  7. 7.

    The cases arose at a time when there were no specific laws for protecting women’s dignity against sexual violations in custody and at their workplace, respectively. Nonetheless, the Indian Supreme Court invoked its judislative power and formulated appropriate elaborate rules to effectively fill these legislative voids. Those rules became known as The Rule in Sheela Barse and the Vishaka Guidelines, respectively and endured until Parliament enacted relevant substantive legislation.

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Ojilere, A., Saleh, M.M. Violation of Dignity and Life: Challenges and Prospects for Women and Girls with Albinism in Sub-Saharan Africa. J. Hum. Rights Soc. Work 4, 147–155 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41134-018-0085-0

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Keywords

  • African mythology
  • Violation of dignity and life
  • Women with albinism