A matrimonial website has removed its skin colour filter after facing backlash from users. According to BBC, Shaadi.com removed an option which allowed users to search for potential partners on the basis of their skin tone after US-based Hetal Lakhani started an online petition against the option.
The matrimonial website said it was a “product debris we missed removing” and added that the filter “was not serving any purpose”.
The step to remove the complexion filter comes amid a raging debate on racism and colourism which has seen many Bollywood celebrities being called out for endorsing fairness creams and also compelled Johnson & Johnson to stop selling its line of skin-whitening products in India.
“The obsession with fair skin is still notorious within South Asian communities,” wrote Hetal Lakhani in her online petition, which has garnered over 1,600 signatures.
“Shaadi.com has a colour filter that asks users to indicate the colour of their skin using descriptors like ‘Fair’, ‘Wheatish’, and ‘Dark’ and allows users the ability to search for potential partners on the basis of their skin colour,” she wrote. “We demand that Shaadi.com must permanently remove its skin colour filter to prevent users from selectively searching for matches based on their preferred skin colour.”
The idea of starting the petition came to Ms Lakhani after she saw a Facebook post from Meghan Nagpal, who was using Shaadi.com.
“I emailed them (Shaadi.com) and one representative said this is a filter required by most parents,” Ms Nagpal told BBC.
After she shared a post discussing the complexion filter on Facebook, Ms Lakhani took up the issue on a larger platform and started a petition to get it removed.
“I wanted to tackle this in a way that could make a difference so I started a petition,” said Ms Lakhani.
“And it just took off like wildfire. Within 14 hours we had over 1,500 signatures. People were so glad we were raising the issue.”
In India, the debate around colourism is not a new one. Over the last few years, many fairness creams have been criticised for equating skin colour with beauty. The issue came under the spotlight once again as anti-racism protests erupted in the US after the death of George Floyd last month.