The mythology surrounding albinos in parts of Africa is strong. In Malawi, it’s believed that their bones contain gold. In Tanzania, businesses and politicians turn to witch doctors who say the body parts of albinos bring wealth or good luck. Men believe that sleeping with an albino woman can cure them of HIV.
As a result, albinos, especially children and women, are increasingly being kidnapped and killed and their body parts sold on the black market, according to a new report from Amnesty International that’s based on interviews and research in Malawi. Ikponwosa Ero, an expert on albinos for the United Nation’s Human Right’s Council, said in April that Malawi’s 10,000 albinos face “total extinction” if nothing is done.
“Thousands of people with albinism are at severe risk of abduction and killing by individuals and criminal gangs in Malawi, where their body parts are allegedly sold for use in rituals. Graves of people with albinism have also been targeted by criminals who remove bones in order to sell them,” Amnesty concluded.
Albinism isn’t viewed in Malawi as the rare genetic condition that it is, but as a curse and an opportunity to make money. Derogatory names for albinos include “money,” “deal,” and “millions,” according to Amnesty. Researchers found that the limbs, genitals, ears and nose, or a “full set” was selling for $75,000 (pdf, p. 5) in Tanzania in 2009. Albinism is more prevalent in parts of Africa than elsewhere in the world.
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