The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has prohibited TV channels from airing condom ads between 6 am and 10 pm. The new directive issued yesterday, is based on following two points in THE CABLE TELEVISION NETWORKS RULES, 1994, Advertising codes:

  • No advertisement which endangers the safety of children or creates in them any interest in unhealthy practices or shows them begging, or in an undignified or indecent manner shall not be carried in the cable service.
  • Indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes or treatment shall be avoided in all advertisements.

This led to a massive debate on Twitter, over the futility of the said ban. Eventually, by the end of the day #CondomAds was trending at the top on Twitter.

Both the concerns of the I&B ministry and the public outrage around the ban are not misplaced. However, with a population of 1.3 billion, the conversation around contraceptives should be not about their ads, but about their necessity.

The I&B ministry is making two false assumptions. Firstly, it assumes that the new age kids go to sleep by 10 pm. As a mother of a 4-year-old, and hence in contact with many more from the club for tormented souls, I can vouch that the little imps these days are at the peak of their activity at that time.  Secondly, kids spend more time on the internet and YouTube these days than in front of the television. So kids need to be made aware that sex and pleasure are not bad things, however, it should be safe. Correct usage of condoms greatly reduces the risk of catching or spreading STDs and protects one from unwanted pregnancies.

The real culprits are the advertising agencies who are marketing condoms as a luxury product, instead of marketing it as a measure of contraception. When I was young, Doordarshan or DD as I still like to call it, played Nirodh advertisements. The focus of those ads was on family planning, and they would never make family members queasy if a child was watching it. But then came cable network, and both the content and ads grew bold and liberal, with the target audience being the metro cities and urban Indian population.

The Lintas ad for Kamasutra by Alyque Padamsee, featuring Pooja Bedi changed things forever.

Now, ads are more about sexual pleasure and satisfaction. Not that there is anything wrong with pleasure or sex. But now it is essential, that the focus shifts back to using a condom as a measure of precaution.

In our society, where the topic of sex is still a taboo, these ads are alienating people from contraception. Instead of motivating parents to talk about sex and protection, these ads are making parents run for the remote control.

The ban only propagates the thinking that sex and condoms are bad things. If we want to break this taboo, we have to do it keeping their inhibitions about sex in mind. It is both impossible and wrong to shield a growing child, especially a teenager from a conversation about sex. Rather than forbidding condom ads during daytime or switching the channels, we should focus on giving sex education to our children. Parents need to discuss this topic with their wards.

Instead of placing an embargo on the condom ads during the daytime, the I&B ministry should lay down guidelines for advertisers. It should make sure that advertisers concentrate more on getting the message of precaution and protections across to the public. Rather than the size of dots and flavours.

Picture Credit: livemint

Also Read: Political Party Raises A Storm Over Sunny Leone’s Condom Ad, Seeks Ban

Contraceptive Use Falling In India, Trend Driven By Men: Health Ministry

Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own.

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