13 June annually is proclaimed as International Albinism Awareness Day and by acknowledging and celebrating this day, a platform is created to educate people on albinism in a quest to demystify and debunk deep-seated misconceptions and superstitious beliefs on this condition.
In 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for the prevention or attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism, and on 26 March 2015, following a recommendations from civil society organisations to consider persons with albinism as a specific group with particular needs who require special attention, the Council created the mandate of independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.
What is Albinism?
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair and/or eyes. Albinism occurs in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world. In the U.S., approximately one in 18,000 to 20,000 people has some type of albinism. In other parts of the world, the occurrence can be as high as one in 3,000. Most children with albinism are born to parents whose hair and eye color are typical for their ethnic backgrounds.
Common myths about albinism?
- A common myth is that people with albinism have red eyes. Although lighting conditions can allow the blood vessels at the back of the eye to be seen, which can cause the eyes to look reddish or violet, most people with albinism have blue eyes, and some have hazel or brown eyes. There are different types of albinism and the amount of pigment in the eyes varies. However, vision problems are associated with albinism.
- The myth that sex with people with albinism is a cure for HIV/Aids: The false belief has resulted in the rape of women and girls with albinism in parts of Africa.
- People with albinism (children in particular) bring bad luck: There is superstitious misconception that the condition brings sickness or even death.
- Albinism is a punishment of a curse from the gods or ancestral spirits.
- Body parts of persons living with albinism can be used in portions to cure other diseases.
- Drinking the blood of a person with albinism gives you magical powers.
- People who spent too much time in the sun will develop albinism.
- People with albinism have a lower IQ than the rest of the population.
The abovementioned myths is just a few example which may lead to serious harm, or even death of people with albinism, seeing that many people still believe these myths about albinism.
People with albinism are at risk of isolation because the condition is often misunderstood. Social stigmatization can occur, especially within communities of color, where the race or paternity of a person with albinism may be questioned. Families and schools must make an effort to include children with albinism in group activities.
Source of some of the facts: Website of National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation