Speaker of the House of Assembly Jomo Thomas says skin bleaching is a looming heath crisis in St. Vincent and the Grenadines that should be addressed.

“It is something that I detect: a looming health crisis as it relates to the issue of bleaching,” Thomas told Parliament on Monday, saying that the phenomenon has been troubling him as someone, an Africanist, nationalist, reparationist and more importantly, as a citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I don’t know if honourable members are paying sufficient attention to it but four decades after the emergence of the Black Power movement and the Black is Beautiful movement, and 38 years after Independence, four years since CARICOM and certainly St. Vincent and the Grenadines has taken the banner, led by Prime Minister Gonsalves, on the issue or reparations, it troubles me that so many of our young people, men and women, are engaging in this practice.”

Thomas said that he knows that people of African descent are not the only persons who bleach, adding that it is said that Japanese and Indians and other persons bleach their skin also.

He said that from a humanity standpoint, this is an important point to know.

“But, as someone who lives in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I am really, really concerned about this.

“I don’t know what the government, what the Ministry of Health thinks, I don’t know what the leader of this administration thinks, I don’t know what is the position of the Leader of the Opposition. But is it something that I believe we ought to be paying serious, serious, serious attention to.

“Clearly, it is the reflection of the proliferation of Eurocentric ideas on issues of beauty and so on and what is acceptable in the world, but it’s something I would like to see us think about,” Thomas said.

Speaker of the House of Assembly, Jomo Thomas. (iWN file photo)

Commenting on the issue, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament that he agrees with the Speaker, “one hundred per cent”.

“There are views that it be banned, but let’s talk about it as to see if the bleaching should be banned or not,” Gonsalves said.

He, however, said that a point to be noted is that “it goes beyond that.

“I mean, if you start to ban those for bleaching, are you going to ban these hair pieces?” he said to laughter.

“I’m putting the issue in its amplitude. I only ask this — I was not expressing a view on it. I was expressing that when the discussion begins.”

The prime minister said some people may say that someone’s natural hair, “we celebrate that, we take care of that and don’t try to put some addition to it.

“Some may say so. I am not getting myself in that debate,” Gonsalves said, adding that he knows how popular is a store in Kingstown that sells these products.

“So I just raise that. In other words, I have my personal views, but then, as a policy maker, I can’t impose my personal views we have to listen and we have to see what’s happening. But the point that the honourable speaker made, I think it’s a valid point and I think it’s a matter deserving of the most serious consideration for further policy action,” the prime minister said.