South Asia’s colourism issue rears its head

Shaadi.com has come under fire for allowing users to filter results by skin tone

Shaadi.com, a popular site used by people looking for marriage, has come under fire for allowing users to filter results by skin tone. The filter is a troubling indictment of the issues of colourism in South Asia, where being light-skinned is so desirable that skin bleaching products are sold openly in shops. By Sadia Nowshin.

Shaadi.com is designed for South Asian singles. The site acts as the modern middle-man between potential matches who want to settle down.

The option to filter by skin tone was born out of the mindset rooted in many South Asian societies where the fairer your skin, the more attractive you’re considered. Following a huge backlash spearheaded by user Hetal Lakhani, the site removed the feature.

Inspired by the BLM movements, colourism has come under new criticism.

Bollywood stars who showed their support for the protests, but also endorse skin-lightening products were branded hypocrites. Profiting off the idea that lighter skin is more attractive meant their BLM statements felt empty and performative.

Also under fire for hypocrisy is Unilever, as sales of their skin-whitening product ‘Fair & Lovely’ continued to boom at the same time that the company released statements condemning racism. The lightening products made the company over $500 million last year in India.

Though colourism and anti-black racism are two independant issues, they’re rooted in a similar mindset that lighter skin = better.

We’ve even seen this across popular media, where the idyllic female form is represented by a fair woman (see: every Disney princess before 1991’s Aladdin, and even then the 2019 live-action remake made Jasmine light-skinned with Eurocentric features).

Despite efforts to combat colourism, Shaadi.com’s filter proves that it remains a concerning issue within South Asian cultures.

However, the fact that people demanded it was removed could be a sign that change is to come. As we become more aware of these issues and more active in challenging them, the goal is to reach a day where everyone can feel comfortable and happy in their own skin tone.