An interracial couple has said their daughter, who has albinism, has faced disgusting racial abuse due to the colour of her skin.
Marwa Houma, 33, from Croydon, South London, who is white, shares daughter Julia-Marie with her civil partner Malcolm John, 60, who is of black Caribbean heritage.
Julia-Marie, now 15 months, was born with blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin, and doctors later diagnosed her with albinism, a condition affecting one in every 17,000 people.
Marwa said strangers struggle to believe Malcom is their daughter’s father and look at him like he has ‘kidnapped’ the baby.
She added their little girl has been subject to horrific abuse because of her looks.
‘Every time I take Julia outside, people don’t look at me because I’m fair-skinned, but when they look at Malcolm with Julia, it’s like “what’s that man doing with that baby?”,’ she explained.
‘People would stare at him as though he kidnapped the baby, and I felt for him, but he couldn’t express it.
‘As a parent, I need to be brave and fight for my daughter’s future. Our fear is that Julia would get bullied about her glasses and condition.
‘People need to know you don’t need to be black to be racially abused. You can be white, have blonde hair and blues eyes, and still be abused for your skin colour.’
She continued: ‘We once had an incident at the hospital. She was six months old and crying, so I said, “I’m going to take her to the car and feed her and you can pick up the prescription”.
‘But the lady at the chemist wouldn’t take Malcolm seriously. She said, “call the mother, so I can confirm her date of birth”. She wouldn’t believe this is the father.
Marwa said her bubbly tot has faced vicious discrimination – particularly when she steps out with her loving father
When Julia-Marie was born in June last year, she was stunned by her extremely pale skin tone and piercing blue eyes, which didn’t match her parent’s features
‘He was fuming, and he had to come all the way to the car park and say, “could you come upstairs and confirm Julia’s date of birth”.’
Marwa said her daughter had also been branded a ‘white monkey’ in a vile racist outburst, leading her to report a hate crime to police and fear future reprisals.
She added: ‘I stopped taking Julia out completely. Enough of the intimidation.’
Marwa, a stay-at-home mother, said she was surprised when she gave birth to Julia-Marie in June last year because her features were so different to hers and Malcolm’s.
She said: ‘She was born completely white, like pale with blonde hair and blue eyes. I was expecting to have a mixed-race baby because her father is of black Caribbean heritage.
‘Her dad just thought, “this is our baby”. Maybe he was in denial, but he had her in his arms and loved her from day one.’
Marwa said doctors and nurses at the hospital where Julia-Marie was born failed to spot that their daughter had albinism. She later slipped into post-natal depression.
The baby’s albinism was only spotted by her GP two months later, who explained the dangers it could pose to her health in the future.
Marwa found out her daughter had ‘OCA1’, meaning she could contract skin cancer if she’s exposed to direct sun and needs to wear glasses.
Marwa explained: ‘The GP told me Julia needs to be fully protected from the sun otherwise she’ll get skin cancer, and she would need glasses as her vision will never be 100 per cent and there is no cure for albinism.
‘She also can’t open her eyes outside because of the bright light, she has photophobia [a fear of the light]. This is where my battle started.’
Albinism affects the production of melanin, which determines someone’s hair, eye and skin colour and makes those with the condition particularly susceptible to sunlight.
Marwa spent most of this year’s unseasonably hot summer indoors with Julia-Marie, ‘paranoid’ that the strong rays might harm her daughter.
On the occasions they did step out as a family, Marwa soon noticed how Malcolm and Julia-Marie became targets for discrimination due to their differences.
Despite the struggles Julia-Marie has faced in her early years, she has since gone on to have a successful baby modelling career, attracting fans from around the world.
Marwa now wants more people to be aware of the medical truths surrounding albinism – to crack down on the abuse that many people face with the condition each day.
She said: ‘Quite often these subjects are swept under the carpet and people don’t often talk about it. This is a lack of knowledge.
‘I knew very little about it, hence why I struggled during my postnatal period. As a parent, we want to raise awareness about everything we’ve learnt since Julia was born.
‘People need to understand what albinism is and the origin of the disorder. It’s not contagious and it’s not a disability.
‘In 2022, it’s sad to say, there’s still discrimination, and not only white people can be racist. There’s racism in every single race. We need to stand for our Julia.’