Africa News

Gambia Bans Skin-Bleaching

On Monday, 23 Gambian Lawmakers voted to uphold a ban that stopped the use and sale of skin bleaching/lightening products within the country. The Ban that was installed by former president Yahya Jammeh in January 1996 was revisited last year after some members of parliament felt it was discriminatory towards women.

Skin-lightening, although widely practiced in Africa and Asia, continues to be a controversial topic amongst many lawmakers despite being a multi-billion dollar industry. Many believe that the practice undermines true African heritage and identity while perpetuating toxic colonial mentalities that ‘lighter is always better.’

Of the 33 MPs that voted, 23 chose to uphold the ban while 10 were against. Justice Minister Dawda Jallow has also come out to complain that criminalizing people for using skin products was not fair. However many argued that the practice was not only a threat to one’s health but also self-esteem for many young dark skinned girls around the continent.

Some of the products banned.

“The chemicals used in the production of skin bleaching creams is hazardous to human health.” Momodou Camara Member of Parliament. In the past many of the products were discovered to contain mercury that could inevitably lead to mercury poisoning while others contained glutathione that was toxic for the nervous system, liver and kidney.

Other countries to join Gambia in the war against skin bleaching also include Rwanda, Kenya and Ghana that moved to eradicate the practice through bans and sensitization. For some the fight is far from over as some countries like Nigeria lag behind with 77% of its women population still using these products.

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