South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

South Asian marriage website, Shaadi.com, has removed a skin tone filter following pressure from users. File/Getty
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Updated 12 July 2020

South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

DHAHRAN: An online backlash has forced the matrimonial website Shaadi.com to take down an ‘skin color’ filter which asked users to specify their skin color using descriptors such as fair, wheatish or dark. The filter on the popular site, which caters to the South Asian diaspora, was one of the parameters for matching prospective partners.

Meghan Nagpal, a Toronto-based graduate student, logged on to the website and was appalled to see the skin-color filter. “Why should I support such archaic view [in 2020]?” she told Arab News.

Nagpal cited further examples of implicit biases against skin color in the diaspora communities – women who are dark-skinned are never acknowledged as “beautiful” or how light-skinned South Asian women who are mistaken as Caucasian consider it a compliment.

“Such biases stem from a history of colonization and the mentality that ‘white is superior’,” she said.

When Nagpal emailed the website’s customer service team, she received the response that “this is what most parents require.” She shared her experience on a Facebook group, attracting the attention of Florida-based Roshni Patel and Dallas-based Hetal Lakhani. The former took to online activism by tweeting the company and the latter started an online petition.




Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site eventually removed the filter.

“Now is the time to re-evaluate what we consider beautiful. Colorism has significant consequences in our community, especially for women. People with darker skin experience greater prejudice, violence, bullying and social sanctions,” the petition reads. “The idea that fairer skin is ‘good’ and darker skin is ‘bad’ is completely irrational. Not only is it untrue, but it is an entirely socially constructed perception based in neo-colonialism and casteism, which has no place in the 21st century.”

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site eventually removed the filter.

“When a user highlighted this, we were thankful and had the remnants removed immediately. We do not discriminate based on skin color and our member base is as diverse and pluralistic as the world,” a spokesperson said.

“If one company starts a movement like this, it can change minds and perceptions. This is a step in the right direction,” said Nagpal. Soon after, Shaadi.com’s competitor Jeevansathi.com also took down the skin filter from its website.

Colorism and bias in matrimony is only one issue; prejudices are deeply ingrained and widespread across society. Dr. Sarah Rasmi, a Dubai-based psychologist, highlights research and observations on how light skin is an advantage in society.




The website took down the skin filter following backlash.

“Dark skin tends to have lower socio-economic status and, in the US justice system, has been found to get harsher and more punitive sentences.

“These biases for fair as opposed to dark skin comes from colonial prejudices and the idea that historically, light skin has been associated with privilege, power and superiority,” she said.

However, in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter protests, change is underway.

Last month, Johnson & Johnson announced that it will be discontinuing its skin whitening creams in Asian and Middle Eastern markets, and earlier this month Hindustan Unilever Limited (Unilever’s Indian subsidiary) announced that it will remove the words ‘fair, white and light’ from its products and marketing. To promote an inclusive standard of beauty, it has also renamed its flagship Fair & Lovely product line to Glow & Lovely.

“Brands have to move away from these standards of beauty and be more inclusive so that people – regardless of their color, size, shape or gender – can find a role model that looks like them in the mass media,” said Dr. Rasmi.


Egyptian actor and academic Sanaa Shafea dies aged 77

Updated 12 August 2020

Egyptian actor and academic Sanaa Shafea dies aged 77

  • The actor suffered from severe pneumonia during the past two days
  • Culture Minister Inas Abdel Dayem paid tribute to Shafea saying he had “formed a dramatic milestone"

CAIRO: Egyptian actor and academic Sanaa Shafea died on Wednesday at the age of 77 after a short illness.
The actor suffered from severe pneumonia during the past two days before he died in hospital, Egyptian newspapers said. 
Egyptian Culture Minister Inas Abdel Dayem paid tribute to Shafea saying he had “formed a dramatic milestone in Egyptian theatrical performance,” Al-Akhbar El-Youm newspaper reported.
Abdel Dayem said that throughout his career he succeeded in performing complex characters and produced a group of immortal works.
The actor, theater director and professor was the dean of the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Cairo.  
He reportedly married nine times, among them his marriage to Egyptian actor Nada Bassiouny.
Born in 1943, in Assiut region, Upper Egypt, Shafea lived in a village for eight years before moving to Cairo with his father.
His love for acting was met with objection from his father, who was a scholar at Al-Azhar Islamic Institute.
Shafea took part in almost 30 films and played a number of roles in many television series, the most prominent of which are “Omar bin Abdul Aziz”, “Haroun Al-Rasheed”, “Bab Al-Khalq”, “Hadret Al Motaham Aby”, and during last Ramadan he participated in “Layalina 80”.