Hi, this is David Stead, Editor of Africa Have Your Say…. we’ve been joining forces with our colleagues in the BBC Caribbean Service to discuss the controversial issue of skin bleaching.
Thousands of African and Caribbean women – and a few men too for that matter – use skin bleaching products at some stage in their lives, despite concerns over safety and long term damage. Why?
Kanangwa Humuyamba Newlove from Zambia where bleachers are called FBI’s (formerly black individuals) got straight to the point, telling us the frightening reality for a lot of poor African women desperate to marry is that men more often than not prefer light skinned women.
Carline in Jamaica seemed to support this view, saying she started using bleaching products three years ago because her ex-boyfriend wanted her to be brown rather than black. She’s given up now…but spent months bleaching herself from top to toe every morning.
19 year old Fenisha in Kingston, Jamaica, was absolutely blunt. She has been bleaching for five years because “people say if you’re black you’re ugly”.
Across in Nairobi, Yusuf – a man – seemed to confirm these prejudices. “I have a passion for light women”, he said. They are lovely and caring, If you walk in the street everyone looks. If you are with a black lady no-one is interested. It is a status symbol”.
It’s one rule for the men and another for women however – Yusuf admitted he would not bleach himself. But lots of callers and texters were shocked that so many people were prepared to bleach.
Nana in Accra said it was “an insult to my race and another form of colonialism. I am black and proud.” Hawa in Abidjan argued that we need to challenge the view that the “latino” look of Beyonce, J-Lo or Rhianna is the epitome of beauty. She says girls should be educated at a young age to appreciate their skin. And of course the irony that white people seemed to spend much of their time – at least in the summer – trying to get their skin darker was noted by many people.
“I spend a lot of time in the sun and on sun beds trying to look darker while other are trying to look whiter!!” Catherine in Swindon texted. “And I have a lot of black and asian friends who are beautiful and I am often jealous of them for their lovely skin colour.”
But few thought that despite the possible side effects – stretch marks, skin irritation, sun burn among others – skin bleaching should be completely banned. And in countries such as Nigeria, the Gambia, Uganda and Kenya which have banned the importation and manufacture of products containing skin lightening agents local concoctions which may contain chlorine bleach, hair relaxer creams and lime juice are still widely used.