Austil Mathebula
3 minute read
4 Mar 2015
2:43 pm

10 albinism myths busted 

Austil Mathebula

Like any one-year-old, Yohana Bahati was still enjoying the comfort of his mother Esther Bahati's hands when he was snatched by an armed gang in north western Tanzania's Geita region last month.

Members of the Albinism Society of Kenya demonstrate along Harambee Avenue on June 19, 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Gallo Images / Nation Media / Stephen Mudiari

Esther’s efforts to protect Yohana, who is an albino, were cut short when she was slashed with a machete by the gang, leaving her in a critical condition in hospital. Yohana’s body was later found just a few kilometres away from his home, with his limbs severed.

According to figures released by the United Nations, 70 albinos have been murdered in Tanzania in the past decade, their body parts removed to make charms and spells that witch doctors claim bring good luck and wealth.

With this number of deaths, one wonders how many other albinos live in fear of being killed for their body parts. A victim of these attacks, Mariam, 28, shares her experience

(Warned, this video is not suitable for sensitive viewers):

Seeing the level of ignorance, myths and misconceptions about albinism in the African continent, we share ten myths and facts about people living with albinism:

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Myth: They are results of inbreeding or incest, that is, breed from closely related people, especially over many generations.

Fact: The body of people living with Albinism has little or no ability to produce the colour of the skin, hair and eyes. This colour is called “melanin”. It is a genetic condition, which means it can be passed from parents to their children, but no studies have shown that this is a result of incest.

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Myth: Albinism is a punishment or a curse from the gods or ancestral spirits due to wrongs done in the family.

Fact: Albinism is a genetic condition that is passed on from parents to children. Many people are carriers of this recessive gene. Albinism is not a curse.

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Myth: Body parts of persons living with albinism make potent charms that can make people rich and successful.

Fact: This is not true. It is a myth spread by witchdoctors in order to enrich themselves at the expense of others.

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Myth: Drinking the blood of a person with albinism gives extra magical powers

Fact: This is not true. Persons with albinism are human beings like anyone else and do not possess any magical powers.

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Myth: People with albinism are sterile.

Fact: This is not true. Persons with albinism are fertile and can have children like other people.

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Myth: A person with albinism cannot have regularly pigmented children.

Fact: A person with albinism can give birth to regularly pigmented children if his/her partner is not a carrier of a similar recessive gene for albinism. The children may be carriers of the recessive gene but it will not be expressed in them.

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Myth: People with albinism are not intelligent.

Fact: This is not true. Persons with albinism are intelligent and also perform well academically like other normally pigmented people. There are teachers, lawyers, politicians and musicians who are living with albinism. Salif Keita is such one person living with albinism yet a world renowned musician. Watch one of his best songs, Africa below:

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Myth: People with albinism cannot see during the day but see well at night.

Fact: People with albinism have eyesight problems due to lack of ‘melanin’ pigmentation in the retina. They can see during the day and also at night, but they may either be short or long sighted and may need sight aids.

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Myth: That the mother slept with a white man.

Fact: Children born with albinism may look ‘white’ due to absent or reduced pigmentation but are not products of cross race sexual relationships.

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Myth: That people with albinism don’t die, they simply vanish.

Fact: All people with albinism die like other normally pigmented people. There’s no such thing as vanishing.