Matrimonial site Shaadi.com has removed its skin tone filter following a petition filed by a woman named Hetal Lakhani, who claimed that this particular feature reinforced colourism and discrimination based on skin tone. Shaadi.com took notice of the complaint and made the necessary rectification. The matrimonial search engine will no longer allow users to look for partners on the basis of skin colour.

Woman Starts an Online Petition

Lakhani, a woman based in Texas, USA, told BBC that she gained cognisance of the skin tone filter on Shaadi.com when another woman posted about it on Facebook. Meghan Nagpal, a Shaadi.com user, noticed the complexion feature on the website and discussed it on a Facebook group of which Lakhani was a member too. Nagpal said, “I emailed them (Shaadi.com) and one representative said this is a filter required by most parents.”

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After Nagpal sparked the discussion, people on the group were outraged. Lakhani said, “When Meghan shared this on our group I was really shocked because a company usually has a social responsibility.” Thereafter, she began an online petition on Change.org, demanding Shaadi.com to “permanently remove its skin colour filter to prevent users from selectively searching for matches based on their preferred skin colour.” The petition mentioned that the notion that “fairer skin is “good” and darker skin is “bad” is completely irrational,” and could affect “self-esteem” or “mental health” and even lead to “social exclusion.” Social media picked up on it, and within 14 hours the petition had over 1,500 signatures.

Shaadi.com Responds

After the petition gained traction, Shaadi.com tweeted that they “do not ask any of our members for their skin tone or colour and we do not discriminate basis skin colour. We believe that love comes in all shades and shapes.” Users were quick to hit back that such a feature did exist on the website.

The matrimonial site then said that since the database didn’t capture this information and hence had “no implications on matchmaking”, one could not actually “filter profiles using this” feature. However, it did accept its mistake, saying that the filter was a “blind spot” on their end, and removed it.

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This move by Shaadi.com tails the recent global outcry against racism and skin discrimination that has led brands to re-examine their policies and products that were, knowingly or unknowingly, promoting social prejudice.

Tanvi Akhauri is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. 

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