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Dark and lovely.

India's obsession with "Gorapan"


One of the most prominent social issues of a primarily brown country, India , is it's obsession with fair skin. The Indian society even in 2019 believes that a person's worth can be determined by their skin colour.


Dark skinned girls from a very young age have had these questions thrown at them that has long term self confidence consequences.

"Why is she so dark if her mother is fair?"

"How come her sister isn't dark and she is?"

"You should put this face mask. It will make you fair."

"Dark skin girls shouldn't wear this color."

"You've tried fair and lovely?"

"Bleaching helps."

"You should not go out in the sun. More dark you shall become."


These are common and only some of the things that dark skinned girls have grown up hearing this. Most of the things are so demeaning and self damaging that women spend decades not accepting their skin.


Another absolutely illogical question that gets asked to dark skinned girls is how they're dark if their mother is fair, totally ignoring the dark skinned father standing right there. Are we growing stupider with time? Are we really asking why a child with one fair parent and one dark parent had either of the skin tone?


It also doesn't help that the Indian fairness market is one of the largest out there. India has a $450 million fairness cream industry and this is still growing. The largest shareholder is HUL's Fair and Lovely which hold the market of 50% to 70% and the cream was launched in 1975.


1975.

It's 2019 and the market held by it is more than 50%.


The advertisement used are the most derogatory in nature. Every dark skinned girl gets a man to fall for her, gets her dream job and has everyone appreciating her existence more once she becomes fair. How do you assume this affects the average dark skinned girl's confidence whose already dealing with her share of skin problems.


Other than fairness cream promotions, all the other products also show lighter skinned models. Whether it is sari or electronics. Cars or hair products. You would often find light skinned models as the default choice.


And if you thought this was only affecting women, men have also been added to their list. For over a decade now, the men's fairness industry has grown threefold. Celebrities like Shahrukh khan and John Abraham have blatantly been endorsing skin lightening creams that again has ads showing men transforming their lives upon changing their skin tone.


Apart from capitalism, colorism is deeply rooted in our colonisation. British colonisers who had fair skin claimed to be superior race which subsequently affirmed their belief that India being the brown or black colored was the inferior race. Even amongst Indians , Britishers made sure their allies were lighter skinned Indians and the browns were used for menial jobs . This belief further intensified when the East India Company segregated it's Fort St. George settlement as "White town" and their Indian settlement as "Black town" (J T Wheeler, Early records of British India : History of English Settlements in India 1996).


Another factor that promises to keep this colorism alive is our own discrimination between castes and within castes. This is more seen for matrimonial purposes. Lighter skinned people within the castes are given more preference. Another viewpoint of this discrimation is that dark skinned is associated more with the lower castes which though erroneous is hardly refuted majorly.


Skin tone discriminations are also associated with locations wherein the first assumption for a dark skinned person is made that they are from the south. Even if studies have confirmed that the varied temperatures and geographical conditions make the south counterparts darker, the analogy is often used more derogatorily than factually.


The mental consequences are more deep rooted. Women have been using fairness creams and masks for decades now. Even with the acceptance of dark skin, their habits have been so prolonged they have a hard time moving away from this.


Socially dark skinned women have been rejected for marriages. Another case of absolute irrational behaviour is assuming dark skinned women who've married fair skin men that it's a love marriage. This is because their implied belief is why would a fair man marry a dark skinned women in an arranged married set up. As bizarre as it sounds, women have narrated these subtle instances happening to them.


We don't believe the markets or the societal behaviour can be changed overnight. But it's a start. Young women are more accepting of their skin tone and have stopped getting bothered by these ancient views. The change is small but ongoing which is what matters. A continuous self appreciative behaviour and complete disconnection from societies dark skin prejudices within ourselves is what will give bring the change. Maybe not soon. But someday.


Image source : Created by Bangladesh-based artist Waseka Nahar, the digital illustration was inspired by a picture originally clicked by and featuring Zainab Anwar, a Pakistani artist based in Canada.

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