Albinism (from Latin albus, "white") is a genetic disorder, characterized by a partial or total lack of melanin pigment in the eyes, skin, and hair (or more rarely the eyes alone). The eyes are red while skin and hair are white. Albinism is associated with vision defects and increased risk of skin cancer. Albinism results from inheritance of recessive alleles. The condition is known to affect mammals (including humans), fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
In parts of Eastern Africa, there is a belief, even by rich urban dwellers, that body parts of albinos have magical powers. Witch doctors buy albino body parts. Fishermen have used human hair from albinos woven into fishing nets for good luck. Bones are ground down and buried, since it is believed they will transform into diamonds. Treatments made from the genitals are believed to boost sexual potency. Body parts have been used to treat the sick. Albinos have therefore been killed or have had their members severed. In some cases, they have been butchered on the streets. During the 2007-10 period in Tanzania, there were 66 confirmed attacks and 57 murders, but many attacks are believed to have gone unreported. Sex with albinos is believed to cure AIDS, which have caused many rapes. The attacks were in 2010 stated to be spreading to other parts of Africa, with attacks reported in Ghana and Swaziland. Albino skins from Tanzania have been sold in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa.
Between 2000 and 2013, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) received over 200 reports of ritual killings of albinos in 15 countries. This despite albinism being very rare. In addition, many killings were likely unreported, in particular infant killings. There was a trade of body parts and living persons, including children. Beliefs included that the magical effect was particularly strong if the victims were children or were being butchered alive and screaming. More generally, albinos were extensively discriminated against and persecuted. Even their mothers could be abandoned by partners and families.
- Juju Chang and Joseph Diaz. Africans With Albinism Hunted: Limbs Sold on Tanzania's Black Market. Aug. 26, 2010. ABC. http://abcnews.go.com/2020/africans-albinism-hunted-tanzania/story?id=11446434#.UITSsIaxWpe
- Andrew Malone. The albino tribe butchered to feed a gruesome trade in 'magical' body parts. Updated 09:02 GMT, 25 September 2009. Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1215949/The-albino-tribe-butchered-feed-gruesome-trade-magical-body-parts.html
- Persons with albinism. Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 12 September 2013. http://srsg.violenceagainstchildren.org/sites/default/files/documents/docs/A_HRC_24_57_ENG.pdf