The Rwandan government has begun enforcing the ban on skin-lightening and bleaching products from shop shelves in Rwanda.
According to Al Jazeera, Rwanda’s ban follows similar crackdowns in South Africa, Kenya and Ghana, where the importation of such products is prohibited.
Bleaching creams and soaps, whose sales in Africa are worth billions every year, were banned in the landlocked East African country in November 2018.
However, the move has raised fears that consumers will be forced to buy unregulated products, which could put their health at risk.
Some of the products sold on the black market are smuggled into Rwanda.
Many skin-bleaching products contain chemicals like hydroquinone and mercury and have been linked to skin cancer as well as kidney and liver damage.
It is believed that President Paul Kagame instigated the crackdown when he condemned the use of the products in November, urging Rwanda’s ministry of health to take action.
Responding to concerns raised by a Rwandese national on Twitter regarding the state of bleaching in Rwanda, President Kagame urged the nation’s ministry of health to take action immediately
Francois Uwinkindi of Rwanda’s Ministry of Health Cancer Unit said, “We are now putting more effort into educating people, going around and seizing those illegal products. We are joining those countries who are also in this fight against the use of those illegal skin-lightening cosmetics”.
A number of African countries have banned skin lightening products, but the laws aren’t enforced. This is why skin-whitening creams and soaps continue to flood the markets in several African countries like Ghana, South Africa, Mali, Nigeria, etc.
American model, Blac Chyna, visited Nigeria late last year to promote a new skin lightening cream, produced by controversial singer, Dencia.
Both parties were bashed by Nigerians on social media and this saw them disable comments on their Instagram pages.
Skin bleaching is a multibillion-dollar global industry. At least four out of every 10 women in Africa bleach their skin, according to the World Health Organisation.