The Executive Director of the Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism Newton Kwamla Katseku has bemoaned the continuous stigmatisation and ritual banishment of persons living with albinism.
Addressing the media, he noted that “due to stigmatization some fathers of children with albinism deny paternity which creates additional social and economic difficulties for Persons With Albinism (PWA).”
Sharing the findings of their research conducted in some communities, he described ritual banishment as an iteration of ritual sacrifices.
“The study also indicated that there is the willingness on the part of the traditional authorities to cooperate with government toward the abolishment of the custom,” he added.
He, therefore, called for intensive public education on albinism as being a “natural bio-medical condition that does not have any spiritual connotations.”
More so, “the government, through the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs, must collaborate with GAPA, and the National Hose of Chiefs to identify all communities in which such customary practices remain prevalent.”
“The Government should not recognize or gazette chiefs from traditional areas where such outmoded cultural practices remain prevalent. The National Commission for Civic Education should include the human rights of persons with albinism in their public sensitization programs.”
Below is the full press release
PRESENTATION OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF GAPA AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE ON RITUAL BANISHMENT AND STIGMATIZATION OF PERSONS WITH ALBINISM IN GHANA
Venue: Accra Rehabilitation Centre Date: Thursday, 18th June 2020
Greetings to all Ladies and Gentlemen from the media and allies of the disability movement,
On behalf of the Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism (GAPA), I wish to express a profound appreciation to you for honouring our invitation to this press conference on ritual banishment and stigmatization against persons with albinism in Ghana. As used in this context, ritual banishment refers to the cultural practice that prohibits the residence of a person or social group in certain communities, due to local beliefs.
To recall, since 2010 various media reports have indicated that it is a taboo for persons with albinism to live in Bokuruwa, a community in the Kwahu East District. Subsequently, GAPA had information about similar cases at Akwamufie, in the Asuogyaman District, Abease near Atebubu, in the Pru East District etc. Even though the perceptions about the custom is widespread, until recently it has not been substantiated by research. Thus, between April and May last year (2019) GAPA initiated an independent study to ascertain the veracity of the prevalence of the custom in the aformentioned communities.
The following were among the key findings;
- The study confirmed the prevalence of the customary banishment of persons with albinism in the three target communities,
- It was found that custom originated as part of rituals sacrifices offered to certain local gods.
- According to the traditionalists, in previous years their ancestors used to sacrifice the blood of PWAs to the gods. However, the emergence of banishment of PWAs from the communities is likely to have emerged as a modification in response to the effects of modernization. Thus, currently, in some of the communities, PWAs can temporarily enter some parts of the localities but areas closer to chiefs palace and shrines of certain deities are prohibited.
- Due to stigmatization some fathers of children with albinism deny paternity which create additional social and econonic difficulties for PWAs.
- The study also indicated that there is willingnesss on the part of the traditional authorities to cooperate with government toward the abolishment of the custom.
Implications of the Findings
For the implications of the findings, it is imperative to note that, even though Article 26 of the 1992 Constitution supports the promotion of different cultures and beliefs, it prohibits all cultural practices which dehumanize or are injurious to the physical and mental wellbeing of a person. Thus, the customary banishment of PWAs contravenes the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana. It also contravenes the National Disability Act 715 of 2006, and the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The custom is therefore an infringement on the fundamental rights of PWAs.
The Way Forward to Cultural Reforms
In response to the findings, GAPA has so far taken the following measures;
- GAPA have used various platform to educate the public on the fact that albinism is a natural bio-medical condition that do not have any spiritual connotations.
- GAPA has petitioned the Commission for Human Rights And Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) for redress,
- GAPA has also Petitioned Parliament for redress. However there have not been any concrete intervention by any of the state institutions.
While patiently waiting for the intervention of the state, GAPA hereby call upon the government to consider the following proposals;
- That the government, through the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs, must collaborate with GAPA, and the National Hose of Chiefs to identify all communities in which such customary practices remain prevalent.
- The Government should not recognize or gazette chiefs from traditional areas where such outmoded cultural practices remain prevalent.
- That, the National Commission for Civic Education include the human rights of persons with albinism in their public sensitization programs.
Finally, we call on the media to contribute towards the campaign against the stigmatization, and the promotion of the rights of persons with albinism.
Thank You All
Newton Kwabla Katseko
(Executive Director, GAPA)