Fair Isn’t Lovely: If Rwanda Can Do It, Why Can’t We
We don’t need to look at the market value of whitening creams to tell us that we are a country obsessed with fairness. All girls and women growing up in Indian households know what it means to be fair or dusky, how it affects their social relevance and decides their marital prospects, way before they are old enough to even understand what marriage means. Which probably explains why we have movie stars endorsing these brands!
- Rwanda is leading a campaign against skin bleaching and substandard cosmetics that include hydroquinone.
- A report says that Indians spend $US 450 million on skin fairness products annually.
- In India, a fair complexion is a sign of superiority; thus, it gives you confidence in life.
- But how many people do take pains to know what is in their fairness cream? Or how it affects their health?
How many people do actually know what they are putting on their face in the name of skin lightening? How many users actually research enough to understand how harmless or harmful these products are before using them? But above everything else, how many men and women dare to address their own insecurities and refuse to entertain the age-old stigmas which give white skin tone the ethereal status it enjoys? These are the questions we need to ask our society and take a cue from Rwanda which has bellowed a war cry against skin-lightening and bleaching products.
How many men and women dare to address their own insecurities and refuse to entertain the age-old stigmas which give white skin tone the ethereal status it enjoys?
According to CNN, Rwanda is leading a campaign against skin-bleaching and substandard cosmetics, particularly products that include hydroquinone. Government officials and police are now patrolling markets across the country and seizing skin-lightening and bleaching products from vendors. In fact, according to Rwandan police, they have seized more than 5,000 banned bleaching products, including lotions, oils, soaps, sprays, etc, from beauty shops, across the country, last month.
How many people actually care about what they are putting on their face in the name of fairness creams?
One of the common ingredients found in many skin lightening creams, mercury, may cause kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discolouration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, says a WHO report. Does your fairness cream contain inorganic mercury? Or Hydroquinone? Do you care to know why Rwanda wants to ban all the whitening creams containing them? Not many do.
A 2018 NCBI report says that Indians spend $US 450 million on skin fairness products annually. This is because a fair complexion is a sign of superiority; thus, it gives you confidence in life. You can crack job interviews, have a line of prospective grooms outside your door, or score ladies’ attention at gym or pubs because in India if you are fair, you are by default lovely or handsome. Popular advertisements only play on age-old beliefs and our conditioning to believe that a dark complexion is a curse. Which is why it is much more difficult to crack down on fairness products in India.
We need to get rid of this illusion both for the sake of our society and peace of mind. The stigma around fair skin is unhealthy as it keeps us from seeing beyond the skin tone of a person. Fairness cannot be synonymous with qualifications, etiquettes and values and yet we value it over all these things. Skin colour is not a barrier that we need, because it does no good, only sustaining biases which are long outdated.
Still, if you think these are no good reasons to keep you from buying and using a fairness cream, please Google all the contents in that tube promising you a life-changing prospect and their effects on your health. And then ask yourselves, are they worth risking your well-being?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.