Malawi: Stop ritual murders of people with albinism
People living with albinism in Malawi are at risk of being abducted or killed in murders associated with witchcraft. There have already been 6 reported killings in 2016 – both adults and children.
Albinism is a rare,non-contagious, genetic condition present at birth that results in absence of pigmentation in the eyes, skin and hair. It is estimated that between 7000-10000 people live with albinism in Malawi.
Erroneous beliefs and superstitions have put the safety and lives of people with albinism at risk, including from killings, abductions, and mutilations. Societal attitudes about albinism are not changing, and people with albinism continue to be at risk of attacks with some children being abducted and sold by family members.
Two-year-old Whitney was abducted from her bed while she was sleeping in April. Baby Whitney’s skull, teeth and clothes were later discovered in a neighbouring village. Her brutal murder follows that of 9-year-old Harry, snatched from his home in February and found beheaded soon after.
Even after death, the bodies of people with albinism are subjected to grave robberies. Their bones are stolen and sold for use in witchcraft rituals.
The few perpetrators who have been arrested in the past have either been acquitted or given lighter sentences.
There is an urgent need to address these issues. The president of Malawi has expressed concern and support for efforts to improve the lives of people with albinism, but this has not been followed by action.
People with albinism are paying for political and social inaction with their lives. This is a matter of life and death.
We’re calling on the president of Malawi to protect people with albinism from attacks and bring the perpetrators of albinism-related crimes to justice.
Dear President Peter Mutharika,
Thousands of people with albinism live in constant fear of being abducted or killed in Malawi, where their body parts are being sold for use in ritual purposes. Ritual killings of people with albinism are influenced by superstitions and myths that their bones or body parts can bring riches.
We, the undersigned, call on you to:
- Offer effective protections for people with albinism. Protect their right to life and right to personal security, in accordance with Malawi’s international human rights obligations and commitments.
- Resource the police to adequately investigate crimes related to albinism
- Bring to justice the perpetrators of albinism-related crimes
- Tackle the harmful superstitious beliefs perpetuating the targeting of people with albinism.