India is confronting its long-held bias against dark skin

Skin lightening products generate billions of dollars in sales
Skin lightening products generate billions of dollars in sales

A growing number of Indian people are speaking out against cosmetic giants selling skin-whitening creams as global anti-racism protests shine a spotlight on Asia's obsession with fair skin.

Seema, a skin lightening product user, says, "When I look at the fairness cream commercials it looks like a good product. They show that when people become fairer they get jobs, they get proposals for marriage."

READ MORE: Revisiting the colourism and pretty privilege conversation amid Pearl Thusi Twitter controversy 

Prejudice against darker skin tones is pervasive - global anti-racism protests have put pressure to end the bias. Unilever only recently dropped the word "fair" from its popular Fair & Lovely cream. But some warn the fight has only just begun.

Activist Kavita Krishnan says, "They should be doing much more to make amends for the wrong that they have done, because they were selling basically bleach products which did harm to the skin and they were also doing deep harm to the psyche of people growing up, especially young women growing up, girls growing up and so on because they were putting money – big money – into normalising this idea that you are lesser than if you are dark."

While experts say British colonialism helped fuel colourism, the bias is deeply rooted in ancient caste hierarchies. 

Compiled by Phelokazi Mbude

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