The Information and Broadcasting Ministry recently issued an order banning the broadcast of condoms commercials between 6 am in the morning to 10 pm at night, stating that it had received numerous complaints regarding their unpleasant impact on children.
It all started in September when a condom advertisement featuring Sunny Leone invited dissent from a Surat-based group. The ad was displayed on hoardings across the city and carried a message in Gujarati “play but with love” which was shared on social media by the public. City-based group Hindu Yuva Vahini conducted a protest at one of the locations where the advertisement was displayed. Recently, the government strictly asked T.V. channels not to air advertisements selling and promoting condoms because these are “indecent especially for children” and can create “unhealthy practices” among them.
This move by the Centre evoked strong reactions from not only domestic media and companies; but also from the international media.The New York Times laid emphasis on how conservative the society in India is whilst talking about the rampant growth in the country’s population, while BBC News called sex and contraception a taboo in our society. Reuters even reported “India’s decision to ban condom ads on daytime television drew widespread ridicule on Wednesday as a retrograde step that threatened progress on sexual and reproductive health.” The ministry has henceforth clarified that the ban is only on “sexually explicit” ads that are used primarily for P.R purposes. However, that does little to change the current practice in India of labeling anything sex-related as “taboo”.
The need of the hour, especially in our society, is to recognise that promoting the usage of condoms and the practice of safe sex is not the problem, it is rather the way condoms and contraceptives are marketed in India that is severely problematic. In India, condoms are advertised not as a resource of protection from unwanted pregnancies or Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s) but exclusively as a means of enhancing the sexual experience. This approach used by the advertisers results in the main essence of the advertisement becoming solely about sex and promoting redundant cosmetic advantages like an assortment of flavours, colours, patterns etc, and not about highlighting the practical advantages that come out of using protection. The very basic and primary functionalities of a condom are uncared for and not showcased in these advertisements.
In a country that hosts a constant rate of increasing population of 1.4 billion people, banning advertisements like these can only do more harm than good. Instead of prohibiting condom ads, the government should make active efforts to change the perception of the general public that heavily lacks sexual awareness. Sex needs to be welcomed by the Indian society as a part of a safe and hearty lifestyle as opposed to it being branded as “indecent” and “unhealthy”.
Feature image credits: Cosmopolitan