[The Sexuality Blog] Ghana is banning bleaching creams but that’s not the point

The Ghanaian government just followed in Cote D’Ivoire’s lead and signed new legislation that seeks to regulate and in certain instances ban the importation and purchase of skin bleaching creams in the country. To do this, they are targeting the chemical which is the active ingredient in most bleaching creams – hydroquinone -and banning all products – cosmetic or not – that include the chemical.

Except for non-domestic industrial use, hydroquinone is already banned in many countries for its carcinogenic properties.

Mimi Darko, Acting Chief Executive of the Ghanaian Food and Drug Authority told a parliamentary committee about the measures being put in place to crack down on the products in the market.

“The FDA is working with cosmetic sellers to ensure that those creams are not available on the market. The lab is also testing to make sure that even if they try and hide it, we will find it in laboratory analysis.”

While this is admirable, it really doesn’t solve anything. It hasn’t solved the underlying problem that drives people to lighten their skin – the pervasive problem of colourism as enforced during colonial occupation that encourages the mindset that whiteness as attractive. Until we take away the benefits that having light skin offers through proper cross generational sensitisation, banning bleaching creams will only force people to take even more drastic, dangerous measures to ensure they “get their fix”.

We have already heard stories of people using bleach and used engine oil to lighten their skin, often with life threatening results. It will only make the trade more lucrative for sellers and more enticing for bleachers.

The problem of colourism is one that must be tackled through education and realigning of values, we must challenge our preconceptions and prove them wrong and bigoted and we must work until the demand for bleaching creams is gone, rather than trying to legally cut off supply.

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