Indians are obsessed with fair skin. Yes, color discrimination exists in Indian society from years. During British rule in India, Britishers promoted the idea of fairness and people with lighter skin color were considered of high status and enjoyed privileges as compared to people with darker complexion. And this is also how color became one of the aspects to differentiate and got related to casteism as well.
We talk about equality, human rights, politics but we hardly pay attention to colorism that affects people majorly mentally and also physically sometimes. 23 years old Chandana Hiran challenged “Fair & Lovely“ a face cream introduced in 1975 to Indians which is now a basic necessity of every girl here, to remove the word “fair“ that directly promotes fairness and won the battle by making it to “Glow & Lovely“. She is a chartered accountant finalist and a campaigner. The two campaigns she has run is #WomenNotObjects and #AllShadeAreLovely. She told Eat News, the inspiration behind this campaign was from her own experience of colorism. She said, “I’ve faced cruel remarks and unfair treatment from people around me because of the color of my skin. I always faced confidence issues due to this and I wanted to bring an end to that, not just for myself but for everyone!“
Fairness products has a good record of demand among people. In 2019, the Indian fairness cream market was reportedly worth Rs 3,000 crore. No doubt, fairness products are encouraging people to choose fair skin over other colors. They portray it as a desire every girl has or dreams of, instead reality is way far. “Fairness products have been building this narrative of fair skin being superior. They have used this tactic to sell their product. Unilever’s fair & lovely used to be the single largest skin care product in India. They used people’s vulnerability to sell them insecurities in a tube“, said Chandana.
An article published in 2005 in Dainik Bhaskar, an Indian Hindi-language daily newspaper, about color discrimination by Sita Ranawat said, “I don’t see any difference in people’s mentality or behavior when it comes to colorism comparing 2005 and today. Yes, but I am noticing girls are accepting themselves. They have gained confidence“. According to her, color discrimination is gender biased. She thinks, somewhere boys with darker complexion are acceptable by the society because even lord Krishna and Ram was dark. But when it comes to girls, society makes them feel disgusted in themselves. They are advised to apply several beauty products that makes their skin look fairer and are even bullied for their whole life.
Society has set certain parameters for the women and judge them accordingly. It’s like a rule book that everybody goes by. Chandana believes that all these are very superficial and we as a society has to be more careful of what kind of parameters, we are setting to judge women. She says, “There is much more to a person than their appearance. But yes, fair skin is considered as a measure of beauty which is really incorrect.“
The whole process of putting herself on public domain and standing against the colorism, that she personally also had gone through, Chandana reminds it by stating, “When I put my story out it meant calling out all the people who has bullied me and discriminated against me. It isn’t easy to take a stand like that when you’ve had issues with expressing yourself. But it was the beast decision of my life because I came out of this process much more confident.“
Talking about the change Chandana noticed around herself, she quoted, “I have noticed that people around me are much more aware of what they say now. they have stopped giving me unsolicited advice on, how to improve your complexion, or making comments like, fair people are so beautiful.“
The idea of fairness is also quite open among Indian kids. It is common to see children calling each other black with different connotations of it. And this is rooting to a next level depression among them. The statistics shows rise in depression due to color discrimination in India. According to Chandana, “I think it completely shatters the self-esteem. Because now the kid thinks that their value is only in their appearance. I think parents need to take this responsibility on themselves.“
Chandana believes in standing up and speak against what is wrong, “I want to tell people who are facing discrimination or had faced in past, they are not alone in this. A lot of people have faced this and we know what it is like to walk around with a broken self-esteem. What matters is that you take a stand for what’s right and make sure that this cycle of discrimination stops with you.“
Chandana denied the rulebook of society and instead chose the journey of making difference.
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