Access to justice for women, children and those living with disabilities in Nigeria


Dr. Olaitan Olusegun is a lecturer in Medical Law and Human Rights at Obafemi Owololo Univeristy in Nigeria. She was an Africa Oxford Initiative (AfOx) Law Faculty Visiting Fellow 2023-24 at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford, where she was a member of Somerville College.

The focus of Dr. Olusegun’s research has been access to justice for women, children and those living with disabilities in Nigeria. During her fellowship, she examined the rights of children with albinism in Nigeria’s legal framework.

“Initially, my research proposal was on the broad spectrum of disability rights,” she says.  In fact, it was only after consulting with her collaborator, Professor Tarun Khaitan at the University of Oxford, that she narrowed the scope of her research and redirected to studying the legal rights of children with albinism.

“Dr. Olusegun was extremely collegiate and working,” Professor Khaitan said. “She fully immersed herself in the academic life at Oxford and made the most of her visit.”

Dr. Olusegun asks, “can albinism be considered a disability?” “Children with albinism can walk, they can talk, and they can do everything everyone else does,” she explains. Yet they may need sunscreen, regular eye exams, and specific accommodations in classrooms, which often leads to children with albinism being classified as individuals with disabilities to ensure they receive the necessary support.   


An inherited condition characterised by the absence of melanin, albinism manifests in alterations of skin, hair, and eye pigmentation. In Africa, the condition affects approximately one in every 5,000 people; in Nigeria, 6 million people live with albinism, 40% of whom are children. Still, individuals with albinism are discriminated in society. In some Nigerian communities, albinism is viewed as a curse from the gods; while in others, it is believed to confer magical powers, leaving those with the condition susceptible to attacks.

 In the legal field, previous studies have primarily focused on the obstacles faced by people with albinism. “The studies have all centered on hardships,” Dr. Olusegun elucidates. This emphasis on hurdles, she believes, risks portraying people with albinism solely as victims.

The goal of Dr. Olusegun study was to present legal analysis exploring the gaps in legal rights for children with albinism. “The moment you delve into discussions of rights, you are within the legal domain,” she notes. “I examined the barriers to accessing justice and the challenges faced by people with albinism.”  Her research honed in on the experiences of children, because children are often unaware of their rights and the difficulties they face are more pronounced than those of adults.


In Nigeria, the rights of people with albinism are protected by the Discrimination Against People with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 and the Constitution. Dr. Olusegun, however, believes these legal instruments fall short. “The law simply states that people with disabilities should not be discriminated against, but it does not adequately address all their special needs: the right to play, bodily autonomy, and protection from torture,” she elucidates. She argues that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is more comprehensive in addressing these issues. In Nigeria, however, international instruments do not automatically apply and must be adopted into law by parliament. Dr. Olusegun wanted to establish precisely what those gaps are.

Dr. Olusegun’s research illustrates the significant barriers faced by children with albinism in asserting their rights within the Nigerian legal framework. Even where the law stipulates their rights, as in the case of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015, Nigerians with albinism still encounter significant obstacles in accessing justice due to the exorbitant costs associated with initiating legal proceedings in courts and the protracted duration of cases. Though legal aid is occasionally available, it remains underfunded and scarce. “Few lawyers are knowledgeable enough about the rights of people with albinism, and Nigerians with albinism themselves lack the empowerment to advocate for themselves,” Dr. Olusegun elaborates. “Many are unaware that derogatory-name calling, exclusion from social activities, and even being subjected to abduction constitute violations of their rights.”

Dr. Olusegun hopes her research would at least serve as a guideline for policymakers in her country. Though Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, she discovered a dearth of information about children with albinism in the nation. Dr. Olusegun contends that the objective of policymakers should not be merely prohibiting discrimination against people with albinism but should also focus on changing societal perceptions. She explains that we need to “promote the good in society”. This necessitates collaborating with leaders in rural communities to challenge harmful beliefs and empowering law enforcement to apprehend those who flout the law and violate the rights of others.

Dr. Olusegun found out about the fellowship when a former student of hers, now pursuing a DPhil at the University of Oxford, informed her of the opportunity and she eagerly seized it. Reflecting on the fellowship, Dr. Olusegun said that her collaboration with fellow scholars at the University of Oxford bolstered her own work. “I attended seminars in a group. Seeing the work of other scholars and how others responded to their work helped me to improve my own work and apply feedback,” she explained. She also noted that the conducive accommodation in Oxford, along with the cool, crisp air, enhanced her productivity. This collaboration has extended beyond the fellowship, as Dr. Olusegun recently contributed an essay to the Family and Medical Blog at the Faculty of Law, examining the liability of good samaritans in medical emergencies.