Bias from Birth
Colorism — prejudice against darker skin tones — in India is pervasive.
While British colonialism helped fuel colorism, the bias is deeply rooted in India’s ancient caste hierarchies, experts say.
“The assumption is the higher castes are fairer than the lower castes,” sociologist Suparna Kar of Bangalore’s Christ University told AFP.
As a result, many associate pale skin with wealth and beauty — a prejudice bolstered by Bollywood films which rarely make darker-complexioned women the star and frequently portray successful city-dwellers as fair-skinned.
Actress Tannishtha Chatterjee, long vocal about colorism, told AFP: “When I have been cast in urban roles, a make-up artist would come and tell me that it’s an ‘upmarket’ role, so ‘should I make the skin tone two shades lighter?'”
The bias begins at birth, said Kavitha Emmanuel, who visits schools promoting her “Dark is Beautiful” campaign launched in 2009.
“You’ll hear, ‘She’s a girl and she’s dark, oh my god, who is going to marry her? We have to … make her look fair. Don’t let her out in the sun, don’t let her play sport’.”