Intimate Connection between Colour and Caste in India
The fairer sex? Indian company launches an intimate wash designed to 'brighten' the vagina
PUBLISHED:17:28, 12 April 2012 | UPDATED: 16:06, 13 April 2012
A feminine hygiene product launched in India which promises to 'brighten' skin around the vagina is causing widespread controversy.
A 25-second TV advert for Clean & Dry Intimate Wash is being advertised on prime time television, and shows a woman using the product to lighten her sexual organs to please her man.
The product has attracted condemnation on Twitter and blogging sites, with one (male) user branding it 'the ultimate insult' and others bemoaning the extent of discrimination against darker skin tones.
The advertising strapline for the product is: 'Life for women will now be fresher, cleaner and more importantly fairer and more intimate.'
Described as 'unique', the product is apparently designed to keep the skin 'fresh and protected from infection all day' with the added bonus that it will 'brighten darkened skin in that area...making it many shades fairer.'
Clean & Dry intimate wash has ignited controversy about the ideal of 'fairness'
The product has divided opinion in India, being seen by many as a sad indictment of discrimination against darker skin within the social caste system, while others deny the product has any racist connotations.
Columnist Laskhmi Chaudry lambasts the product in her blog, writing: 'The campaign to eliminate the scourge of darkness has extended to every nook and cranny of a womanâ€™s body.'
Indian theatre personality and advert director Alyque Padamsee, however, is quoted as saying, 'The only reason I can offer for why people like fairness, is this: if you have two beautiful girls, one of them fair and the other dark, you see the fair girlâ€™s features more clearly. This is because her complexion reflects more light.'
The launch of the product is likely to continue debate about 'fairness' being synonymous with beauty and desirability.
Despite attempts to end discrimination based on the caste system, it is still widely accepted in India, with the five different levels of the caste system being Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra, and Dalit.
Brahmans are generally considered to be the highest caste group, while Dalits, formerly known as the Untouchables, are considered the bottom rung of the social hierarchy and are often ostracised and forced into menial jobs.
The business of skin lightening is big in India, with Bollywood stars including Shah Rukh Khan endorsing such products.
Many Twitter users and bloggers have pointed out that skin bleaching creams are already widely used in many countries.
Fair And Lovely is a popular skin lightening cream originally from India, but sold worldwide, while Porcelana cream is also a huge seller worldwide.
The product is on sale for Rs 90 (about Â£1) and can be bought online.