Government’s Attempt to Decriminalize Skin Bleaching Faces Resistance


By Momodou Jarju

The Government of The Gambia’s attempt to repeal a law criminalizing skin bleaching has resistance as majority of lawmakers on Thursday refused to support the bill.

Those who said No sounded loudest and on the contrary to those who said Aye.

The repealing of the 24-year-old law which is sponsored by current Government of President Adama Barrow was presented before the national assembly in June and the debate on its merits and principles took place on Thursday July 16, 2020.

According to the decree, a person who bleaches his or her skin commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of 5,000.

Deputy Speaker, Momodou Sanneh, put the question for voting more than three times before saying “the Nos’ have it.”

Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Dawda A. Jallow, thought the bill would not be contentious. However, he clarified that the bill was a decree and was not brought before the assembly for debate on the merits and principles in 1996 when it was passed.

Minister Jallow said the law is no longer serving the intended purpose for which it was meant for.

The bill was committed to the Committee Stage, the third stage, thereafter it would be taken back to the plenary for the third reading for possible consideration or approval. The Justice Minister however reserve the right to either withdraw the bill if he so wishes at this stage.

Member for Busumbala, Saikouba Jarju; Member for Illiassa, Demba Camara; Member for Foni Kansala, Amul Nyassi; Member for Tallingding, Fatoumatta Jawara, are among those who did not support the repealing of the bill.

The opponents of the bill argued that skin bleaching is harmful to human health, and is not good to the users and those who enacted the decree did it with good intentions.

Some of them even said it is the business and problem of the executive because it is their duty to enforce laws, while it is their duty to make those laws.

Halifa Sallah, who is one of the proponents for the repeal of the bill, has on several occasions called for observations from members while they were deliberating for clarification and was granted except one by Niamina East lawmaker, Omar Ceesay.

Sallah-and-co argued that enforcing such a degree could cause problems. They said it would be difficult for the executive to arrest everybody who is bleaching, charged and prosecuted them.