By Mafugi Ceesay
The Skin Bleaching (Prohibition) Repeal Bill, 2020 yesterday created an interesting debate in the assembly. The Gambia government is seeking to repeal the ban on skin bleaching enacted in 2010 but poorly enforced. But when the AttorneyGeneral faced the assembly with his justification for wanting to repeal the bill,he was treated to interesting lectures on the topic by assembly members, the majority of whom seem to reject his wishes.
AG Dawda Jallow told the assembly that studies have shown that the skin bleaching law is discriminating against women, and the government’s idea is to decriminalise all laws that are discriminatory against women. “If this law remains and we want to enforce it, it will be you the lawmakers who will call us back to slowdown. These are social problems, and we will bring more criminals out of our sons and daughters because anyone who is engaged in it is a criminal, and criminal law is not the best solution. So let’s have this law repealed,” he begged the assembly members.
He seemed to have a sympathetic ear in Halifa Sallah, Member for Serekunda who observed that even with all his might,former president Yahya Jammeh and his regime could not enforce the skin bleaching law despite enacting it in 2010.
“With all the might of the former regime, they could not enforce it. I understand some immigration officers (women) were arrested and detained. I don’t know how long but their husbands kept running around,” Sallah explained.
Sallah observed that if the law is not repealed it could mean that all those involved in skin bleaching will be arrested and he also asked if the country has that resources, or the police has that capacity to arrest and imprison all those involved.
Sainey Touray, member for Jarra East, said skin bleaching is simply an insult to African culture.
Ousman Sillah of Banjul North said the best way to go about this is to educate the masses about the medical implication and in time there will be a result. “We should also ask ourselves whether the courts have the capacity to try all those involved at one go,” he noted.
Matarr Jeng, Member for Lower Niumi made an interesting comparison. “If we could repeal the skin bleaching law why not we also repeal the law on cannabis which in fact has medical benefits? Our executive defeated the purpose of implementing laws in the country as they only chose portions that they want and leave others that do not suit them.But when we leave the law there, it will empower more women to carry on bleaching their skin,” he observed.
Omar Ceesay of Niamina East said if the government felt there are health implications in FGM, cannabis smoking and child marriage and had banned them, why not skin bleaching. “I am not in support of this,” he protested.
Touma Njie, member for Banjul South, said comparing skin bleaching to smoking is not a valid argument. ”Because while smoking collectively disturbs the general public, skin bleaching is only the woman engaging in the practice,” she noted.
Sulayman Saho, member for Central Baddibu, said rather than repealing the law there should be improvement. He said the executive are good in making laws but poor in implementing them. “Skin bleaching is medically hazardous to the skin and should not be encouraged in a cultured society. Skin bleaching or imported skin is an imported culture that does more harm to the blacks than good,” the Badibunka man said. Meanwhile the lawmakers rejected the bill at yesterday’s second reading, the bill will proceed for the third reading and will possibly be subjected to voting after which the Attorney General will be given the right to withdrawit or seek other means.
Meanwhile our attention has been drawn to the new pension bill tabled by the vice president which is seeking to up the retirement age to 60 from 65, and not 55 to 60 as erroneously reported yesterday