LILONGWE, MALAWI - Stronger laws are needed to protect albinos in Malawi from senseless attacks, civil rights campaigners stressed as several hundred people participated in a march to parliament in Lilongwe.
The United Nations warned last month that albinos in Malawi are at risk of "total extinction" amid a spike in killings and attacks for their body parts.
"The presentation of the petition to parliament marks our determination as citizens and civil society to call for immediate stop and end to the killings of people with albinism," said Edward Chileka Banda, who helped organize the march.
The petition calls for life imprisonment for people who attack albinos.
Parliament member Ester Jailosi Jolobala received the petition on behalf of the speaker of parliament. She said lawmakers will take swift action.
"You know it is disturbing … when you see perpetrators [released] either due to bail, or maybe lenient judicial sentences,” Jolobala said. “This increases fear in people with albinism here in Malawi."
Seventeen albinos have been killed in Malawi in the past two years. Few perpetrators are caught.
People with albinism — an absence of pigment in their skin, hair and eyes — are targeted in Malawi and other parts of Africa because of a false belief that potions made from their body parts will bring good luck and wealth.
Malawi has dedicated this week to raising awareness on the issue. The country's top football league kicked off its "Game Over" campaign.
The league invited albino individuals to a special match and posted banners around the stadium denouncing attacks.