In a society where a child is told, “Bahar dhoop mein mat jao, kaale ho jaoge” (don’t go out in the sun, you will turn dark), a primary school textbook pictures ugliness to darker complexion, and which has made fairness cream industry a multi-million dollar business, it is of little surprise that we are increasingly becoming obsessed with fair skin complexion. Fairness of skin tone has been associated with being sexy and attractive. To make the matter worse, fairness cream ads try to associate it with confidence, self-esteem and chances of employability.
It is well-researched that skin colour depends on several factors, primarily on the amount of melanin in the skin. Skin colour at birth, therefore, is completely natural. The reason for varying melanin content in the skin depends on the UVR penetration of the skin which in turn varies from region to region (more near the equator and lesser at the temperate regions).
While the debate on this topic may be of lesser relevance for a light-skinned person, the gravity of this can be understood if we look into the difficulties and mental harassment many women in our country face during marriage proposals or during employment opportunities. In a society reeling under pressure from relatives and social acceptance, parents advice their child to apply fairness cream right from his/her childhood. The multimillion dollar cosmetic industry can be held responsible for engendering such prejudices – they go on to use derogatory terms like ugly, dirty for darker skin for their advertisement, which promotes racism and discrimination and shapes the mind-set of people. One cannot ignore the frequency of such TV commercials during a cricket match.
A leading example of a crusader against this negative advertising is Nandita Das who discussed these issues in her book titled Stay Unfair, Stay Beautiful, and has been an active campaigner towards ending this prejudice. She stated that this topic is a kind which should be extensively debated. Like any other social issue, this will also require more awareness and popular participation of people. While it is a personal choice of skin colour for an individual, the mental conditioning through mass communications and advertisements should end. Some of the ways that can be suggested are: skin cosmetic companies should target more on features like pimples, blemishes and dark slots, if not in real then in their advertisements; celebrities can opt out of promoting such products that guarantee white “snow white” skin; use of derogatory terms for dark skin tone should be stopped; people can set an example for others to follow; employers should really be an equal-opportunity provider; giving more lead roles to actors/actresses with darker complexion without compromising on the quality of acting, or as the case may be.
In conclusion, I would like to state that the need is to provide equal opportunities and end this discrimination of black and white for these issues have no place in this colourful world.