We reported in our spring newsletter that an Asian dating website was responsible by means of an algorithm to exclude Scheduled Castes (Dalits) from certain matches. Shaadi.com, a marriage site for the Indian community in the UK, the US and elsewhere, is back in the headlines again.
Originally, subscribers to the website were asked how dark or light their skin tone was – it is commonly believed that a darker skin tone denotes a lower caste and that lighter skin tones are more desirable. Following the Black Lives Matter movement, a subscriber from the US started a petition to remove the colour filter from the website, and after garnering more than 1500 signatures in just 14 hours, Shaadi.com decided to remove it.
While this is a victory, it is disturbing that several subscribers have reported that previously they were rejected by potential matches, based on their skin tone. Although the severity of caste discrimination suffered amongst the Diaspora in the west is milder in comparison to those in South Asia, there is obviously much that still has to be done to tackle both conscious and unconscious bias.
On the bharatmatrimony.com website, it is still possible to search for partners by caste, and while many members in the UK add that caste is no bar to finding a suitable partner, not all of them do. For those who refuse to put their caste down, we do not know whether this is embarrassment or concern over not finding someone should they mention that they are a member of a Scheduled Caste, or whether it is because caste is genuinely not an issue that concerns them when looking for a spouse.
Whether we like it or not, caste remains an identifier for some in the diaspora – and skin tone just another method of making a judgement.