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Abstract

The condition of albinism within the context of Eastern Africa presents a puzzling and troubling question to the human rights community: how does a state protect a marginalized minority that is undefined by human rights statutes? This paper looks into what the specific and unique challenges are facing persons with albinism in Uganda, and how current human rights documents do and do not address those issues. The paper also explores the possible reasons why the issues surrounding albinism are only recently being discussed.

The paper incorporates interviews from a variety of relevant authority figures, selected by their work with albinism, disabilities, and/or human rights. The researcher familiarized herself with a broad range of human rights documents, using the most relevant to explain their limitations in addressing the issue of albinism in East Africa. Publications regarding the issues of albinism in recent years were used within the primary stages of the research. They proved less helpful later on, as most available information is regarding the hunting of albino persons in Tanzania, Burundi and the Congo.

Persons with albinism are particularly vulnerable in East Africa due to a combination of environmental and sociological factors, which have served to repress this group and prevent mobilization. Since most of the challenges faced by albino persons are not directly caused by their medical condition, it is difficult to define these persons within a specific category. Vulnerable groups such as race categories and minorities are unable to incorporate the biological aspect of albinism. In researching the possibility of fitting albinism under the disability category, the researcher found an interesting discordance between international and domestic disability theory, which prevents albinism from being officially recognized as a disability in Uganda. Most of the problems facing persons with albinism can be linked to a lack of comprehensive and accessible information on albinism that is currently available.

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