The stand taken by groups such as Chennai-based Women of Worth, which have been behind campaigns such as ‘Dark is Beautiful’ and opposed the television commercial of the Fair & Handsome brand, endorsed by actor Shah Rukh Khan, has now been validated.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) on Tuesday said “no advertisement should communicate any discrimination or reinforce negative social stereotyping on the basis of skin colour.”

In recent times, consumers as well as celebrities have expressed outrage against claims made by fairness product makers.

In a move that is expected to put an end to discriminatory ads for fairness products, the self-regulatory voluntary body of the advertising industry has come out with guidelines for skin-lightening and fairness product companies.

“Given how widespread the advertising for fairness and skin-lightening products is and the concerns of different stakeholders in society, ASCI saw the need to set up specific guidelines for this product category,” said Partha Rakshit, Chairman, ASCI.

The diktat

“Specifically, advertising should not directly or implicitly show people with darker skin, in a way that is widely seen as, unattractive, unhappy, depressed or concerned. These ads should not portray people with darker skin in a way that is widely seen as a disadvantage of any kind, or inferior, or unsuccessful in any aspect of life, particularly in relation to being attractive to the opposite sex, matrimony, job placement, promotions and other prospects,” it said in a statement.

In addition, it has said that in the depiction of the model before usage of the product, companies should ensure that expressions should not be negative or unhappy.

Against discrimination

It also said that ad campaigns should not associate darker or lighter colour skin with any particular socio-economic strata, caste, community, religion, profession or ethnicity. “Advertising should not perpetuate gender based discrimination because of skin colour,” said the ad watchdog.

Kavitha Emmanuel, Director Women of Worth, said: “…it would only be fair for all cosmetic brands to take heed to this change and ensure that all discriminatory advertisements are taken off our TV screens and print media. We hope that these guidelines are made legal at some point.”

Emami and L’Oreal says they agree that advertisements should not encourage social discrimination of people based on skin colour.

Mohan Goenka, Director, Emami Ltd, said: “The aim of an advertiser should be to ensure that viewers are not misguided about the efficacy of any product or promote discrimination of any sort….”

A spokesperson for L’Oreal India said the company’s communication focuses on the efficacy of the product. “Our conviction is that there is no single model for beauty, the appearance and physical features of each person are unique,” said the company’s spokesperson.