Removes Skin Tone Search Filter. But What About All the Other Offensive Filters?

following Internet backlash from users, popular Indian matrimonial website, removed a search filter on its website that allowed people to look for potential matches based on their skin tones.

Since 2008, has been the leading matrimonial website for Indians worldwide, and currently, claims to have over 35 million users. Recently, Hetal Lakhani and Meghan Nagpal, two of the marriage portal’s users, came together to start an online petition urging the company to remove its complexion filter. This feature asked people to categorize themselves as ‘fair,’ ‘wheatish,’ or ‘dark,’ and allowed users to search for partners based on that descriptor. Initially, when Meghan emailed about the discriminatory filter, their representative responded saying it is a filter required by most parents. But after a petition on protesting the filter rapidly gained traction, the company removed the feature overnight.

While this is a positive development, it barely scratches the surface of the deep-seated problems with matrimony in India, which are propagated by these online portals: by passing on prejudices across generations. Before the advent of the internet, the matrimonial ads carried by newspapers would read something like: “Very fair divorcee boy earning 18 lpa (lakh per annum) wants to marry very beautiful girl,” or “Fair, h’some, unmarried, well-settled Guju 47/5’8″ seeks rich business industrial family girl.” Now, catering to these societal biases is even easier through search filters provided by matrimonial websites.

In a country already suffering from deep religious divides and caste hierarchies, matrimonial websites have been widening the gaps further by letting people choose a partner on the basis of their preferred religion and caste. Removing these filters from matrimonial websites isn’t the solution to deep-seated bigotry, but that can’t be an excuse to propagate them either. As Hetal told BBC Asian Network regarding skin color, “People have their biases. But a company should not inculcate that culture.”

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