Despite the ban on the importation of used undergarments and sanitary ware over six years ago, trade in these items are still thriving on the market.
The secondhand underwears are mostly patronised by the youth
The ban, which came into effect in 2011, is a policy by the Ministry of Trade to prevent the influx of used undergarments considered unhygienic for consumers.
The Mirror’s investigation revealed that importers have evolved a new strategy to enable them sneak these banned items to Ghanaian markets, exposing patrons to all manner of health hazards.
The Head of Public Relations at the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), Dr Kofi Amponsah Bediako who confirmed The Mirror’s findings, explained that the presence of the banned items on the market could be due to the inability to do physical checks as some of the undergarments were hidden in shirts.
According to Dr Amponsah-Bediako, the scanner used at the port in checking items was unable to distinguish between a panty and a cotton shirt, especially if the panties were wrapped in shirts.
“The scanners are good but the only problem is that it cannot make a distinction between a panty and a cotton shirt. Scanners help to detect some of the prohibited items but when the panties are wrapped in shirts, it’s difficult to detect unless they are separated. ” he said.
He noted that the banned goods were coming in because they are not doing random sampling, meaning they are unable to do a 100 per cent inspection limit performance.
“We need to carry on a random inspection but look at the containers, one contains many things. When you pick containers at random, you have to select the items. It difficult to bring everything out and by doing that, we cannot say it will be helpful in detecting everything but with the support of the scanners, it will also help by not delaying the importers” he stated.
The worse situation, he explained, was the porous nature of the country’s borders where people could smuggle banned items through, saying “you can easily enter, until we guard our borders with strong pillars or walls, it will be impossible practically to prevent these items”.
Agreeing that the law was not punishable enough, Dr Amponsah-Bediako said the punishment for this was not deterring people to stop. If the law was heavily punishable, it would help.
The GSA’s own studies throughout the country identified poverty and lack of education as key reasons why consumers patronise the banned goods.
Dr Amponsah- Bediako said the irony was that most consumers claimed that their husbands endorsed the used panties, indicating that ‘that is what our husbands like”.
For example, last year the GSA visited some market circles, some Bus Stops and other business environment in the country and the indication was that consumers seemed to understand that they could be infected with diseases from patronising these used undergarments.
This year, he said his outfit was yet to carry out public education in addition to holding media discussions to further create the awareness of the dangers associated with used undergarments.
He stressed the need to sustain education for the public to understand and appreciate the dangers in patronising used underwear.
In 2011, the Ghana Standards Board resolved to implement a law invoked in 1994, banning the importation of second hand undergarments.
The GSA stated that it was only an agency, executing a policy by the Trade and Industry Ministry to reactivate the ban on the importation of second hand materials.
The ban includes second hand handkerchiefs, mattresses and sanitary wear.
They also did a comprehensive education and sensitisation policy to ensure that the dealers in such materials will comply with the policy.
From February 2011, such materials illegally imported into the country were seized.
The Mirror noted in interviews with the dealers of undergarment that dealers were worried that the source of their income was being taken away.
One of the sellers, known as Auntie Bee who normally sells in hostels and campuses said “I have been doing this for over 10 years, l get my stocks from Kantamanto and they are first selection so quite expensive. Even though they are banned, it’s the high demand for them that’s why we are still selling them on the market. And this is the only way we can also put food on table for our family” But Dr Amponsah-Bediako explained the ban was in their own interest.