The I&B ministry doesn’t want condom ads on television between 6 am and 10 pm because it has deemed them indecent for children.
The I&B ministry doesn’t want condom ads on television between 6 am and 10 pm because it has deemed them indecent for children. Condom campaigns once meant the no-nonsense Deluxe Nirodh ads—there was no jingle, just a voiceover stating that condoms help prevent STIs and AIDS, in a very matter-of-fact, 1990s newscaster-like manner. There was a very vanilla visual, a 10-sec-or-so clip of actors Raj Kapoor and Nargis Dutt walking under an umbrella in the rain in that iconic song, Pyaar hua, ikraar hua, from Shree 420. Then came the Masti ads, slightly paternal in their tone, but with the catchiest of catchphrases: masti samajhte hain na aap? There were objections to these—“think of children” was the refrain then as it is now—but they endured. Now, condom ads, including the one that inspired the partial ban, are no longer about STI prevention, and all about “play” as it were, if one goes by the “offending” campaign’s catchphrase. Any form of a ban on these, though, is a symptom of our collective schizophrenia over sexuality and sexual mores.
The ban invokes the Cable TV Network Rules which prohibits “ any advertisement which… creates (in children) any interest in unhealthy practices”. The Rules also ban “indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes” in ads. It is indeed difficult to talk about sexual health without talking about sex or sexuality. But surely, a condom ad, even one that some find risque, isn’t aimed at creating interest in unhealthy practices? There are other ads that could be considered offensive (skin whitening) and unhealthy (infomercials for products whose safety isn’t certified), but these don’t seem to get the government’s or the public’s goat as much. There is content on TV that many would deem risque or regressive, but there are no calls for banning these. Worse, actually-prurient content can be accessed with just a few clicks and keystrokes, and there is little the government can do to police this. If the government has decided to crack down on condom ads to preserve children’s innocence, it would perhaps need to take a call on ads for bathroom fittings because these “suggest” some nudity and bucketfuls of sensual pleasure. Why stop there? A telecom company’s ad talks about how being on 3G is stopping people from procreating. Isn’t somebody’s kid asking how exactly?