‘Crackdown on Skin Bleaching’
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh who recently pronounced the small West African State of the Gambia an “Islamic State” has commence enforcement of his pronouncement without the constitutional amendments required to change the Republican status of the country. In a Presidential Directive circulated by the Office of the Personnel Management to all government departments, a copy of which was received by Gainako through a highly confidential source directs all Department heads to immediately implement a policy of enforcing female head ties commonly referred to in Islam as Hijab. The directive reads “This is to inform you that an Executive Directive has been issued that all female staff within the Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies are no longer allowed to expose their hair during official working hours effective December 31st, 2015; female staff are urged to use head tie and neatly wrap their hair. All heads of Departments and Agencies are urgently advised to implement this directive and bring it to the attention of their female staff within their line departments and agencies. All are strictly advised to adhere to this directive” the memo concluded (See below scanned image of memo as received by gainako).
It is to be noted that the Gambia is currently a Secular Republican state that is governed by a constitution that clearly guarantees the separation of Church and State. Neither the President nor the National Assembly has the mandate to change the constitution establishing the republican status of the country. Section 100 Subsection 2 of the 1997 Constitution stipulates that “The National Assembly shall not pass a Bill, a) To establish a one party state; b) To establish any religion as a state religion; c) To alter the decision or judgment of a court, in any proceedings to the prejudice of any party to those proceedings, or deprive any person retroactively of vested or acquired rights“. It is therefore clear that to any conscious Gambians who have respect for the laws of the land that the Gambia can only be changed to an Islamic State through a referendum. It may also be recalled that opposition leaders in the country has condemned the President’s declarations and some have even gone to the extent of issuing press statements to threaten action if the President were to proceed with his implementation of his pronouncement.
However, it is clear that Yahya Jammeh who only uses the constitution when it suits his needs has vastly disregarded the very constitutional law that establishes his office. He apparently has begin to implement his pronouncement with full force without proper consultation with his legal advisers and or stake holders in this matter. In fact, the President has started signing off on memos and speeches referring to Gambia as the “Islamic Republic of the Gambia”. This statement was included at the opening and conclusion of the President’s New Year message to the public. So the full official function of the Gambia as an Islamic State has begun in earnest.
In continuing the forceful implementation of his pronouncement, reports indicate that more thank ten women working with the Gambia’s Armed Forces and Fire Services were arrested by the country’s nefarious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) last week Tuesday for allegedly “practicing skin bleaching” locally referred to as “Heysal”. At least seven of the detained women are said to be from the Gambia Armed Forces with the remaining three reportedly working with the Fire Services department. News coming from Banjul also indicate that their detention is in connection with President Yahya Jammeh’s recent denouncement of skin bleaching as “harmful and contrary to Islamic principles”. Speaking at a recent meeting in Banjul President Jammeh reminded Gambians that he had once banned bleaching but many did not heed his ban; instead some responded that he (the President) is not the one buying it for them.
Gainako’s Banjul correspondent confirmed that the detainees were arrested on Tuesday 29th December 2015 during a Marathon rehearsal at the July 22nd Square in Banjul. The rehearsal was in preparation for a Marathon run from Brikama College to the July 22nd Square which took place on 30th December 2015. During the rehearsal women with noticeably lighter skin were approached and instructed to report to the NIA Headquarters at Marina Parade in Banjul, according to our source they never returned after reporting. It is alleged that the detained women are currently held incommunicado and were simply targeted for practicing skin bleaching. This was confirmed by a senior Gambia Governmental official close to the Ministry of Interior.
During recent public meetings President Jammeh emphasized that he “does not want to be associated with any woman practicing skin bleaching”. This was during his constitutionally mandated “Meet the People’s Tour” in Banjul held on Saturday 19th November 2015 at Arch 22 where he publicly castigated women putting on skin bleaching. In support of his denouncement, Jammeh referred to skin bleachers as “people who don’t believe in themselves” and “people who don’t appreciate GOD’s creation”. In the same meeting he declared that “bleaching is a waste of money and at the same time denying the natural color Allah has given”. Facing thousands of Gambians at Arch 22 Jammeh continued his barrage of denouncements on skin bleachers and how women should dress modestly. He alleged that wearing tied jeans is why many women cannot have babies now which is not backed by any research or scientific evidence. The President is known for running his mouth on both sides when he gets over excited especially in large crowds and when in front of the camera.
In the meantime, tension is very high in Banjul as the above memo couple with rounding of women hits the offices and airwaves. Gainako will continue to monitor the arrest of individuals and will reveal the identity of those allegedly arrested once we get the details from our sources on the ground. It is a safe bet to say that many heads are about to roll as women are now being force officially to wear Hijabs. It remain to be seen how this new memo will be enforced on women who are either Christians or don’t belong to any particular religion. “This is where it gets really dangerous and out of control when enforcing one religion over a population” lamented a Gambian activist. This above report are developing stories and Gainako will bring you full details of the outcome of these unsettling memo.
Report filed by Gainako’s Banjul Correspondent.