In India, it is widely believed that a fairer skin tone is an absolute necessity and various brands have encashed on the insecurities of the Indians. The market is inundated with a plethora of various fairness creams ranging from Garnier to Emami to Fair and Lovely and Patanjali. The biggest names in Bollywood have in the past and continue to endorse fairness creams without thinking of the ramifications.
In a welcome move, the Central government has proposed to award 5-year jail term, Rs 50 Lakh fine for advertisements promoting skin fairness.
The government has proposed to amend the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954. As per the draft bill prepared by the government, it could slap a fine of up to Rs 50 Lakh and imprisonment up to five years for advertisements promoting pharmaceutical products for fairness of skin, deafness, improvement of height, hair loss or greying, obesity, among others. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has stated that it has introduced the amendment to keep pace with changing time and technology. The draft amendments also proposes to expand the definition of an advertisement to “any audio or visual publicity, representation, endorsement or pronouncement made by means of light, sound, smoke, gas, print, electronic media, internet or website and includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper, invoice, banner, poster or such other documents: Provided that label or wrapper is an advertisement only if it contains any information or claim other than provided in the rules.”
The ministry has proactively sought the opinion from the public and the stakeholders’ post with the bill will be forwarded. Such a bill will deter the brands from toying with India’s insecurities. Unfortunately, the current crop of fairness advertisements portray darker skin tones as some kind of ailment which is totally not the case. There is nothing wrong in having a darker skin tone and one should be comfortable in his/her skin tone. Despite the current law which awards jail term for 6 months exists for the first time offense, and upto 1 year for 2nd time and beyond for promoting fairness creams, there are certain weak links of the law, that no one ever gets punished, despite hundreds of such advertisements broadcasting daily across various media platforms.
In 2017, Actor Abhay Deol hit out at his Bollywood counterparts for promoting fairness creams. The likes of Shah Rukh Khan, John Abraham, Sonam Kapoor, Yami Gautam, Vidya Balan, Deepika Padukone and most recently Kartik Aaryan have endorsed various fairness creams. Abhay Deol took to Facebook, where he posted a number of celebrity ad campaigns, criticising Bollywood as well as the country’s obsession with fairness. Pointing out actor John Abraham’s advertisement, Abhay wrote, “WE ARE NOT A RACIST COUNTRY! I will prove it to you. In the pic below John holds a card with shades from white to dark. Hey! You can see the promise of darker skin too if you read the card from left to right! He’s not telling you to go from right to left! Duh!
Finally Some Sense In Bollywood🙏🏾.RT If You Agree pic.twitter.com/6Qjg1KiOFb
— Sir Jadeja fan (@SirJadeja) April 12, 2017
He also criticised his co-star of Ranjhanaa, Sonam Kapoor for her ringing of L’Oreal whiteness cream which resulted in Sonam getting offended and stooping to a new low by literally digging out a picture of a fairness cream advertisement featuring Abhay’s cousin Esha Deol and tried to catch Abhay off-guard. But Abhay, as assured as he was in his conviction for the cause, did not get flustered and condemned Esha’s Garnier endorsement. Sonam later suffered a meltdown and later deleted her tweets.
The government’s draft proposal is a much-needed move to deter the brands and celebrities from toying with the nation’s insecurities.