More to this than meets the eye

As a young girl living in the UK in the Eighties, I was an avid viewer of Miss World beauty pageants.  It’s indeed hard for me to admit this as a passionate feminist. But it was a fact.  The reason was because it was one of those rare occasions when I saw women with my skin tone on the telly, who were being publicly celebrated. It was a delight to see Miss Jamaica, Miss Kenya or Miss Barbados representing women who looked (a bit) like me. 

Nowadays though, I am one of the first to speak out against the objectification of both women and men in such contests.  

So – when I read that Kenya has hosted the world’s first beauty pageant for people with albinism, I was conflicted.  Despite my objection to such events, it is clear that Kenya’s competition was designed to reclaim and reframe the concept of beauty, and to give people with albinism a platform to be seen and celebrated – and more importantly to provide a different narrative which would seek to challenge the persecution against this group of people.

In many countries across Africa, people with albinism are not just cast off and ignored by society, they are persecuted and sometimes killed because of who they are.

Earlier this year, Amnesty published a shocking report revealing that there’s been a worrying surge of attacks on people with albinism in Malawi.  In the last two years many people with albinism have been tortured, abducted and killed for their body parts because of erroneous beliefs and superstitions. This year alone, six people with albinism are reported to have been killed – four in one month alone. The actual number is likely to be higher.   

People with albinism in Malawi live with fear because of an increase of targeted attacks over the last two years.

Amnesty is determined for that the authorities in Malawi should do more to stop these attacks.  In the UK, Amnesty has urged supporters to call on the authorities in Malawi to do more to protect people with albinism. 

This includes featuring people with albinism in Malawi in our popular and successful letter-writing campaign, Write for Rights, which launches today.  You can take action here.

Thankfully, televised beauty contests are a distant memory for most of us in the UK. A good thing in my view, (although in the age of Kim Kardashian, Snapchat and selfies, the issue of objectification has most certainly not disappeared).  

As with everything though, sometimes there are valuable exceptions to any rule, and in the case of Kenya’s, this is one exception which I applaud and congratulate.  As clearly, in this case there’s more to this pageant than meets the eye.


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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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