Josephat Torner: A person with albinism - a Tanzanian Hero
Canadian Greens wish to encourage and applaud Josephat Torner for his courageous attempt to draw attention to abuse of persons with albinism by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada said, "Like our own Terry Fox who risked his life to help others, Mr. Torner should be viewed by all of us as an international hero."
Josephat Torner stated, "I am just an ordinary Tanzanian man with an important message. My aim is to take the rights of 'people with albinism' to the top of Africa and shout as loud as I can that I can prove to all that a person with albinism is a person that is capable of anything and everythingand is not someone to be persecuted." He is a 34 year old Tanzanian who was born with albinism, which is caused by two recessive genes leading to an absence of the enzyme necessary to produce dark pigment in the skin, which therefore appears white. Although only 8,000 people are registered as albino, NGO's estimate that there are approximately 270,000 albinos living in Tanzania alone.
As a man with albinism, he remarked, "I will probably die of skin cancer before I reach the age of 40." Torner is one of the luckier ones. Many Africans believe that a person with albinism is not only a less able person but may be a witch. This has led to stigmatization, isolation, and suffering. More than 60 albino people have been murdered for their body parts since 2007 in Tanzania.
Torner stated that he was climbing for children like Kabula who was forced to leave her home and parents. There are 118 children with albinism who have been herded into a 'special' school that is surrounded by a high wall and guarded by police officers at night. Abandoned and dumped for their safety, they are growing up confused and segregated from the wider community. "This
is a dangerous precedent for our country to be setting," said Torner.
Action on Disability and Development international has been assisting the Tanzania Albino Society in pressuring the government to take action to change the law and protect albinos. Joe Foster, Canadian Green Human Rights Critic, stated, "It is time for United Nations partners and affected African countries to take urgent action to not only help and properly protect persons with albinism but to educate citizens on how to respond to this disability."
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