Rwanda enforces a ban on skin bleaching

Kigali – The government of Rwandan has sent out officials across the country to enforce its ban on skin lightening and bleaching products.

The East African country has waged a campaign against skin bleaching and cheap cosmetics, especially products that include hydroquinone.

According to a spokesman from the Rwanda Standards Board told, the action is needed to curtail such habits.

“It is implemented by the Ministry of Health and the Rwanda Food and Drug Authority and the Rwanda Standards Board,” Simeon Kwizera, the public relations, and communications officer for the board said.

“Technical people are conducting operations,” he said. “The police is there to oversee only and make sure that all operations are being conducted safely.”

President Paul Kagame sparked discussions on the need to ban the sale of skin “whiteners” on social media in November. President Paul Kagame supports the action.

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In response to a post from a woman calling for the government to crack down on skin bleaching, President Kagame wrote on Twitter that bleaching creams are unhealthy, and he called on the country’s ministry of health and police to rein “this in very quickly.”

Immediately, government officials and police began patrolling markets in the capital, Kigali, and provinces across the central African nation, seizing skin-lightening and bleaching products from vendors.

Few months prior, the country’s Standards Board warned the public about the alternative names for hydroquinone, one of the prohibited ingredients in ordinary commercial cosmetics.

Bleaching Products

“All the ingredients that can help in body bleaching, skin bleaching, are banned,” a government spokesperson said.

Francois Uwinkindi, director of the cancer unit at the Ministry of Health, told Reuters news agency, “We are now putting much effort, like educating people, going around and seizing those illegal products.”

Police In the country said they have seized more than 5,000 banned bleaching products — including lotions, oils, soaps, and sprays — from beauty shops across the country last month, according to local media, New Times.

Several skin whitening creams are sold in numerous African countries without restriction, despite increasing push-back from the public and governments on the continent.

The global market for skin-lighteners is projected to reach $31.2 billion by 2024, up from $17.9 billion in 2017, especially in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, according to Global Industry Analysts.

Skin-lightening products contain chemicals such as mercury and hydroquinone, which can cause liver damage, reduce resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, and increase anxiety, depression, and psychosis, according to the World Health Organization.

Around 25% of women in Mali, 77% of women in Nigeria, and 59% in Togo regularly use skin-lightening products, according to a 2011 report by the World Health Organization.

The West African nation of Ghana implemented a ban on skin lightening creams in 2017, following Ivory Coast’s ban in 2015.

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