What made you raise the issue of fairness creams in Parliament?
One day, I was in a market in my hometown — its not a very cosmopolitan city, just a small town. I heard a woman asking for Fair & Lovely (fairness cream) at a shop. However, when she was told the price of the product, she began to bargain. But the shopkeeper insisted that it had a fixed price. The woman did not have the money and I was taken aback when I saw the grief on her face. This woman believed the product would make her fairer and beautiful. It is very sad.
So is your objection to the idea of fairness creams or the way they are advertised?
My objection is to the idea of fairness creams. Why should we sell ideas to women that give them complexes? India is a vast country with different geographical and weather conditions. People will have different skin colours. The basic idea of these advertisements is to create a complex in the minds of women and demean those with a darker skin colour. I have also raised questions (in Parliament) about whether these products were actually tested before being released in the market.
What about the prejudices that exist in the minds of the people?
These prejudices exist because we believe that being fair makes one look good. Take a look at matrimonial advertisements. They all seek fair girls. There were face creams in our childhood days too, but none of them claimed it would make you fairer, as far as I can remember.
Do you think banning such advertisements is the solution?
The companies are free to have their products, but the way they sell it, the idea they promote, that is bad. Telling someone that they can improve their looks by whitening their skin is not advisable.
There are many such products for men too.
That is correct. It is a new phenomenon. I think the companies are just trying to prove that it is not gender-specific.