Accra, Ghana – The United Nations has officially declared June 13 as International Albinism Awareness Day. This action has been enthusiastically applauded by Under the Same Sun, an international non-governmental organization, advocating for the human rights of people with albinism, and World Albinism Alliance Inc., the international umbrella group for albinism associations around the world.
Many local albinism groups throughout the world have needed a visible platform to raise awareness, especially in countries with records of attacks and severe discrimination. The hope is that an internationally recognized day will provide such a platform.
Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism (GAPA) is very pleased that the United Nations has taken this very significant step. “International Albinism Awareness Day is one more avenue by which people with albinism around the world can make their voices heard. We have a dream that one day people with albinism will take their rightful place throughout every level of society, and that the days of discrimination against persons with albinism will be a faint memory – everywhere!”
All human beings possess equal respect and dignity as birthright and must enjoy the right of access to the society equally. As per human rights tenets, human respect and dignity is considered to be the most fundamental value on which all human rights are based. Thus, both the International Bill of Rights and the constitution of many states in different parts of the world regard human respect and dignity as the main foundation of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.
1. The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Right states that recognition of the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
2. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also declares “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
3. The preamble to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) asserts “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” The preamble to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also states “Considering that in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
Similarly, regional human rights instruments emphasize on the importance of human respect and dignity.
1. Article 11 (1) of the American Convention on Human Rights (1969) asserts the same right in these words: “Everyone has the right to have his honor respected and his dignity recognized.”
2. Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981) states: “Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being.”
3. Article 15, clause 1 of the 1992 constitution of Ghana also states; “dignity of all persons shall be inviolable”.
Despite all these emphases laid on the importance and equality of respect and dignity of all persons, including persons with albinism, are subjected to all forms of discrimination in all facets of their life:
1. They are perceived as gods and ghosts and are denied certain rights and privileges.
2. They are used for sacrifices in some areas and are not allowed to visit certain places.
3. They are subjected to verbal abuse.
4. They have limited freedom and access to the society and family properties.
5. There are no provisions or accommodations made to ensure their proper education and advancement.
6. They are routinely discriminated against in schools, workplaces and other areas of social functioning. Persons with albinism are human beings, worthy of respect and dignity and entitled to all rights and freedoms enshrined in the various constitutional and human right instruments globally.
Article 17 (2) of the 1992 constitution of Ghana states “A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status”. Therefore a person living with albinism is a person and worthy of respect and dignity and shall not suffer any form of discrimination.
Persons with albinism in Ghana, in some part of Africa and elsewhere in the world are fighting for their survival. They not only face discrimination and outright rejection by families and society, but endure extreme violence as they are hunted down and their body parts used for witchcraft rituals.
Locally, body parts of persons with albinism are said to fetch thousands of dollars.
In 2013, the UN Human Rights Council adopted two resolutions calling on states to take all measures necessary to protect persons with albinism and to ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, speedy and effective investigations into crimes against them.
It is in this line light that the PWAs urge authorities to take urgent and concrete measures in their respective countries to protect right of persons with albinism. Referring again to the bedrock document of our country, the 1992 constitution of Ghana, which states in very clear terms, in article 17 clause 2 that “A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status”, we adjure policy-makers and law-enforcers to ensure that persons with albinism persons with albinism are entitled to human respect and dignity, and free from all forms of discrimination in Ghana.
The resolution instating International Albinism Awareness Day, welcomes increased international attention, noting that, in many parts of the world, awareness of the human rights situation of persons with albinism remains limited.
Further, it recognizes the importance of increasing awareness and understanding of albinism in order to fight against global discrimination and stigma against persons with albinism.
Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism (GAPA) call on all Ghanaian to join in raising awareness on the presence of the Albinism population in the country, to eradicate all forms of stigma attached to Persons with Albinism in the country, reduced to zero the act of ritual killings and seeks justice for all PWAs.
This day is to be observed as such to advocate for the use of right terminology in the Albinism world. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Persons with Albinism, Worthy of Respect and Dignity.” Long live Persons with Albinism, long live the disability community.