BENGALURU, South India (WOMENS ENEWS)–In my school one day recently, a boy and a girl were arguing. He called her "black forest" and she started crying. The girl is dark skinned, the boy is fair. Seeing her crying, the teacher spent the next hour telling our class how it is stupid and silly to make fun of someone’s skin color because genes determine skin color and are inherited.
These lessons are being reinforced by the Dark is Beautiful campaign started by Kavitha Emmanuel, who is from the state of Chennai and has been battling a hugely profitable market for skin lightening creams.
While today’s younger generation may be more aware of the harmful effects of chemicals in creams, manufacturers continue to advertise aggressively. And it’s working.
In a matrimonial ad I saw recently in The Hindu someone posted: "Brahmin, manager in 5 star hotel, looking for fair complexioned, graduate girl." No matter what caste one is from, skin color can matter.
My 12-year-old friend, whom I’ll call Leela here, has dusky skin. Her mother forces her to put on homemade herbal paste containing orange peel, turmeric and honey to make her fair every morning. She hates it.
One ad that was broadcast at prime time on Indian TV showed a father worried about his dark skinned daughter’s chances of finding a husband. After using fairness cream for four weeks she finds many men wanting to marry her. Consumer activists protested against this sexist ad, following which the manufacturer has now come out with fairness cream for men!
It is natural for people in this area to have dark skin. It is for protection against the sun. We find fair skinned Indians in cold, hilly regions such as Kashmir. I am brown skinned but the shade of brown doesn’t affect me. I don’t think about it. I think it is more important to be self-confident, hardworking and a good citizen than having fair skin. I will never use skin lightening creams and I will also advise my friends not to. I wish I could convince their parents of the same thing.
My friend Lasya loves outdoor sports and wants to be a badminton champion, but her mother worries that being in the sun might darken Lasya’s light skin, so she does not let her play much. Because of worrying about skin color India may be losing a champion, who knows?