Shaadi.com Removes Skin Colour Filter. “Fair & Lovely” Culture Had Already Overstayed Its Welcome

Social Commentary

Shaadi.com Removes Skin Colour Filter. “Fair & Lovely” Culture Had Already Overstayed Its Welcome

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

India’s preeminent matrimonial site, shaadi.com, has finally entered the 21st century.

Taking note of a petition floated by US-based Hetal Lakhani, the website has done away with an option that allowed users to filter potential matches by the colour of their skin.

Earlier, when users joined the site, they were asked to select a “skin tone” to display on their profile — which included options like “dark” and “wheatish”.

Shaadi.com later said it had removed the filter because it was “not serving any purpose”. It was a “product debris we missed removing,” the website said, according to the BBC.

Lakhani, who lives in Dallas, decided to speak out after she heard about the filter on a Facebook group. “The obsession with fair skin is still notorious within South Asian communities,” she wrote in the petition, which got over 1,500 signatures in 14 hours.

“We demand that Shaadi.com permanently remove its skin colour filter to prevent users from selectively searching for matches based on their preferred skin colour.”

India’s obsession with “fair skin” is obviously not new. A debate over our “colourism” was recently reignited after a few celebrities — who regularly appear in fairness cream ads — shared Black Lives Matter posts in solidarity with the American protests.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare took a small step in the right direction towards doing away with these products. It made a few welcome amendments to the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

The bill now forbids the advertising of any product that falsely claims to “cure” diseases. Which means that most companies will no longer be allowed to advertise products that promise fairer skin.

Just a few days ago, Johnson & Johnson had said that it would stop selling skin whitening creams in Asia. The company said it would no longer sell the popular Neutrogena and Clean and Clear fairness creams, conceding that “healthy skin is beautiful skin”.

With shaadi.com now jumping on the bandwagon, and removing its racist skin tone filter, there’s more hope that our country can soon rid itself of this fairness obsession. It’s 2020, and “fair and lovely” culture has overstayed its welcome.

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