By Tabora Bojang
The National Assembly yesterday upheld the law criminalising skin bleaching in The Gambia.
The law prohibiting the importation, sale, possession and use of skin bleaching in The Gambia was enacted under the regime of President Yahya Jammeh.
However, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Dawda Jallow tabled the Skin Bleaching (Prohibition) Repeal Bill at the National Assembly last year to effectively legalise the practice.
He argued at the time that the skin bleaching prohibition law was poorly enforced and found to be discriminatory against women and girls in The Gambia and at variance with the country’s international obligations.
“These are social problems, and we will make 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 So let’s have this law repealed,” he begged the legislators last year.
The majority of the lawmakers had expressed opposition to the government’s wish during the the first and second readings.
When called to move a motion for the third reading and a vote on the bill yesterday, the justice minister said having considered and evaluated the government’s chances of success for the bill, he was moving a motion for its withdrawal.
But Speaker Mariam Jack-Denton overruled the motion for withdrawal arguing that the minister’s oral withdrawal runs contrary to the Standing Orders of the National Assembly.
“The minister has not followed the procedures laid down in the Standing Orders and therefore the motion for the withdrawal is overruled,” she announced.
The minister then withdrew his motion and urged the lawmakers to continue with the process. “Since we have come this far, I beg to move that the bill now be read a third time and passed,” he stated.
When the motion was put to vote for the bill to be passed, 11 NAMs voted yes while 19 voted no and the bill was rejected.