Kingston, Jamaica

Monday, January 10, 2011

Skin Bleaching Phenomena in Jamaica

Skin BLEACHING/LIGHTENING may adversely affect the health of those persons who engage in such practices. However, while I am very concerned about the fundamental rights and freedoms of those who decolourize their skin one should question the motive of the Ministry of Health in Jamaica to rid the society of such practices. This cultural practice is very influential and trendy, but not communicable.

According to a case study of Suriname, “The use of bleaching cosmetics increases with the younger ages: 35% of those below the age of 26 is user; 17% of those aged between 25 and 40 and only 10% of  those older than 40.” (Menke:2002). This is alarming! Skin bleaching is considered to be unhealthy and a societal problem affecting young people. In fact, in the same way, smoking and drinking alcohol over a period leads to certain cancers and other internal impairments within the human body. Therefore, one is encouraged to desist from such practices.

Similarly, it is perceived that the impact of skin bleaching in Jamaica is as significant as the data’s from Suriname. Sadly, however, there is no scientific research nor are there surveys carried out in Jamaica in order for an educated audience to substantiate or to critically analyse the claims of the Ministry of Heath in regards to the cultural and medical implications of skin bleaching amongst the populace.

It is believed by several dancehall adherents and misguided skin bleachers that skin bleaching is not a terminal or deadly practice. However, health implications may arises, due to excessive de-pigmentation of the skin from the use of illegal cosmetic creams.  Today, the manifestation of skin bleaching/lightening in Jamaica predominates as a dancehall aesthetic; and re-defines the ideology of beauty and identity within the society. As such, bleaching ones skin is not directly related to self-hatred.

Skin bleachers have the right to freedom from discrimination and alienation on the grounds of COLOUR or “Superficial COLOUR”. Even Rastafarians demand their right to the use of marijuana for religious and sacred purposes. We should not try to hinder the rights of people to change the colour of their skin or identity, but rather correct perceived cultural abnormalities through awareness and education. I strongly agree with the Ministry of Heath to institute stricter enforcement of regulations aimed at clamping down on illegal skin-fading creams. Nonetheless, one must be mindful of and respect the rights of persons to legally lighten their skin colour surgically or by the use of authorized creams. 

Written by:
Dwayne Brown


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