Another individual with albinism was brutally killed, in Ntcheu. Another innocent soul gone too soon. This young person is part of over 50 reported killings people with albinism in Malawi. The Malawi Government, CSOs, NGOs and people of Malawi have joined hands to fight against this inhumane act.
One question that people still ask is, why is it that despite the advocacy, we still have new cases reported almost every week? In my previous article, ‘hands of people with albinism in Malawi’, I touched on the issue of looking at the inhumane act, as a system that has buyers, middlemen/vendors, and sellers. I then argued that to effectively eradicate this practice, the final buyers have to be identified, and brought to justice. We have to cut the head of the snake, and not the tail.
In this article, I argue that individuals, organizations, and the media, need to stop playing the role of a marketer for the buyers, middle and sellers of body parts of people with albinism.
In 2014, the Malawi Government, warned people that they will be arrested, if they call a person with albinism ‘Dhilu (Source of income).’ This was after they discovered that the language used in personal interpersonal communication has the potential to fuel the practice the abduction, killing, and exhumation of the remains of people with albinism.
This was after; media reports started covering the issue of the killing of people with albinism and the reasons why people do so. The journalists, in trying to present a complete story covers all aspects involved to provide a comprehensive picture. However, individuals would only pick the part about ‘charms and the money.’
This begs the question; what kind of language are we using in our daily conversations? Does it in any way hint on the perceived benefits of killing and exhumation of the remains of people with albinism?
In April 2016, local media houses covered a suspect who explained that they are people who offer ‘K1.1 billion for bones of people with albinism.’ I, find the sharing of this information to be among the factors that fuel the killings. Because you are essentially telling the people involved in the act, that any person with albinism that they see, is a potential K1.1 billion. This puts a target on any person with albinism. The more we share this information, is the more we are putting the lives of people with albinism in Malawi and across, southern Africa in danger.
To even make matters worse, the coverage further, exposes the weaknesses in the laws. This is even giving more reasons for those involved in this inhumane act to continue. Because essentially, we are saying, there is a market, and you can get away with it.
They are organizations that are conducting awareness campaigns in communities. This is very commendable and must continue. The question however is; what kind of message are these organizations sharing? Is there a chance that in raising awareness about the inhumane act, you might also be throwing an advert for people who are buying the body parts of people with albinism?
I, therefore, believe that in the process of looking for ways to deal with the vice, we might want to check the information that we provide to the general public. We need to ask, what are some of the unintended effects that this information might have on the lives of people with albinism?
- Chimwemwe John Paul Manyozo, is a Malawi Student at University of Sussex, in Brighton, UK