Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD)

MALAWI: FEDOMA, Partners Submit Petition againstAbductions and Killings of Persons with Albinism

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24 May, 2016

The Federation of the Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA) and Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM),jointly petitionedthe Malawi Parliamentafter a March that attracted various other partner organizations against the presented increase of incidences of attacks, abductions and killings of persons with albinism in Malawi.

The petition, which also saw the participation of the Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (under the Faculty of Law Disability Rights Programme), NGO Gender Coordination Network, Disabled Women in Africa (DIWA), and Civil Society Network on Transparency and Accountability Citizen Alliance,also bemoaned the lenient punishments meted out against those found guilty of committing the social vice, as well as slowdelivery of justice.

In the petition, the partners noted that despite various campaigns and public outcry on the issue, Malawi continued to register higher numbers of attacks perpetrated against persons with albinism.

“It is sad to particularly note that these attacks and murders have been increasing among women and children with albinism. The attacks have brought a lot of fear resulting in many persons with albinism withdrawing from social and economic activities. Many school going children with albinism have dropped out of school,” read the petition in part.

The petition said the cases involving such attacks and killings take unduly too long to be dealt with by the justice system. Furthermore, the prosecutors often proffered lesser charges against the perpetrators for such heinous acts instead of considering charges such as grievous harm, manslaughter, murder or attempted murder. This contributed to the lenient sentences being passed by the courts.

This entire situation, read the petition, demonstrated gross violation of various rights that were enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

On none hand, the Malawi Constitution entrenched rights such as life, inherent dignity and freedom from all forms of violence for all persons in Malawi without discrimination on the basis of disability or indeed any other status or condition. On the other hand, the CRPD, which Malawi ratified in 2009, also guaranteed these rights to all persons with disabilities, including persons with albinism, imposing an obligation on states parties to effectively protect them from all forms of violence; and to identify, investigate, prosecute and effectively punish all perpetrators with a view to putting a stop to the incidents and violations.

But despite such legal obligations, the petition noted that persons with albinism in Malawi were not enjoying these and many other rights. For this reason, the partners called upon the Parliamentarians to take a number of drastic measures such as tightening the legislative framework, strengthening the judiciary, regulating traditional healers, and establishing the Commission of Enquiry within 21 days, among other measures.

“We call upon the honorable parliamentarians to ensure that the state should take all appropriate legislative, administrative and social measures to ensure the maximum protection and enjoyment of the right to life and other rights of persons with albinism in Malawi. This should include reviewing and amending relevant laws such as the Witchcraft Act, and the Trafficking in Persons Act, to include provisions on persons with disabilities/albinism. We also call for repealing or reviewing of the Anatomy Act,” read the petition.

The petition also recommended that the government should commission the urgent systematic registration of persons with albinism and details of their relatives in all constituencies through a census and put in place mechanisms to track and protect them.

In terms of the security of the persons with albinism, the petition proposed that the government should set aside a fund that should address the education (including provision for enrolling children with albinism in boarding schools), security and health related rights and needs of persons with albinism.

Signed by FEDOMA Chairperson, Nitta Hanjahanja and APAM President, Boniface Massah, the petition also urged Parliamentarians to consider learning from best practices in other countries on how to address the attacks of killing of persons with albinism.

To download the full version of the Petition, please click here