We must protect rights of persons with albinism

What you need to know:

Uganda is a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and its optional protocol since 2008, the African Charter,1986, and the African Disability Protocol in November 2023, which all enjoin Uganda to take all measures to ensure the effective protection of persons with albinism, and their family members, elimination of any type of discrimination and to accelerate education and public awareness-raising activities

Uganda has over 20,000 persons with albinism. Uganda recognised albinism as a form of disability in 2020, which means that they too enjoy the same rights as those prescribed for persons with disability.  Uganda is a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and its optional protocol since 2008, the African Charter,1986, and the African Disability Protocol in November 2023, which all enjoin Uganda to take all measures to ensure the effective protection of persons with albinism, and their family members, elimination of any type of discrimination and to accelerate education and public awareness-raising activities.

This is further cemented by the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution 23/2013 and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights resolution 263/2013 which in summation, call upon state parties to effectively protect the persons with albinism.

All the international and regional human rights systems and Uganda’s domestic legal and policy frameworks recognise the uniqueness of the persons with albinism and the urgent need to protect them from violence, discrimination, and stigmatisation and ensure that they equally access public services. The International Awareness Day on albinism is celebrated every June 13 and this year, Uganda took part in the activities to create awareness.  While we continue to emphasise the rights of persons with albinism, they still face challenges that need to be addressed.

Be that as it may, the persons with albinism still face stigmatisation and discrimination. They are discriminated against in schools, hospitals, employment and political participation. Unfortunately, some look at them as “sick people” who are in constant search for Medicare. The society has developed myths and stereotypes against them, calling them all sorts of names including “albinos” which are derogatory and degrading. Persons with albinism are human beings, they deserve to be respected, protected and loved; they must access all services just like anyone else.

As a society, we need to see albinism beyond just an impairment and medical condition to human beings who deserve to live happily like anyone else. We need to create favourable environments to fit their distinct need. We must, as a society teach our children that there is nothing wrong with persons with albinism, that they need to be loved and cherished. The schools and teachers too need to put in place conducive environments for the children with albinism to be able to learn with ease, for example, writing in big fonts, reducing the amount of light, having them sit at the front and using less colours to enable the children see well and giving them more time for their exams. Isolating children with disability and albinism by putting them in specialised schools is not good for them, they grow up being isolated by society. Society too needs to interact with them and learn about their uniqueness and embrace them.

The government has the primary duty to ensure reasonable accommodation for the persons with albinism, ensure equitable access to health services, education and justice and also educate the masses on their distinct nature. We cannot as a country debate whether or not to provide tax-free SPF sunscreen lotions, or sight-supporting gadgets, among others, this should be imperative. The majority of persons with albinism die of skin cancer, which could have been avoided by providing proper care facilities and education of public service providers.

We must aim at changing society’s perception about persons with albinism and do all we can to demystify all the stereotypes and myths constructed around persons with albinism. They are not get-rich-quickly catalysts and neither are they a curse. We need to see persons with albinism in employment, taking up political positions and government appointments.

Michael Aboneka, Partner: Thomas & Michael Advocates