How Did Condoms Become The Enemy of Sanskari India?
This time, the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) has been given the task of deciding whether condom advertisements with “explicit sexual content” should be shown during ‘prime time’ on Indian television or should they be restricted to air between 11 pm and 5 am.
Hindu Yuva Vahini activists protesting in front of the hoarding featuring a condom ad with Sunny Leone.
A BJP MLA from Ramgarh in Rajasthan’s Alwar district once famously went to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and counted the number of used condoms. Apparently, it meant “girls and boys dance naked at cultural programmes in JNU”.
In 2014, Dr Harsh Vardhan, then Union health minister, suggested that AIDS can be prevented with Indian values, not condoms. During an AIDS campaign, he said, that spreading information about condoms “sends a wrong message that you can have any kind of illicit sexual relationship, but as long as you are using a condom, it’s fine.”
Harsh Vardhan, it seems, was taking a cue from Sushma Swaraj. In 2003, when Swaraj was the health minister under the Vajpayee government, she had preached ‘abstinence, self-control and single-partner sex’ for the prevention of AIDS. She had specifically said that condom “is against Indian culture,” resulting in taking off condom advertisements from television.
By now we are pretty much aware that the country would rather have a billion-plus unmanageable population than utter the C word. Because, that C word is seen to be a shame, a sign of illicit relationships and against Indian values. Because, who cares about sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancies right?
Now, the condom is at the centre of attention, yet again.
This time, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has been given the task of deciding whether condom advertisements with “explicit sexual content” should be shown during ‘prime time’ on Indian television or should they be restricted to air between 11 pm and 5 am.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has sought the ministry’s suggestions after a number of complaints from the viewers. The ASCI has received letters from consumers who have complained that the content of the advertisements of condoms was meant for adults and should not be aired during primetime.
The root of the problem is reportedly Manforce, a condom brand that has had a history of making suggestive commercials with Sunny Leone as the star. The hoardings of the ad had sparked protests in Gujarat, after a Surat-based group took offence to its message. The message in Gujarati on the hoarding read ‘Aa Navratri a ramo, parantu premthi’ (This Navratri, play but with love). According to the protestors, it “insulted the religious sentiment”. It clearly didn’t end with the condom brand withdrawing its hoardings.
It hurt the ‘sentiments’ of some viewers so much that they don’t want to see anything that has anything to do with condoms. And that raises too many questions. Isn’t the primary purpose of condom ads to educate people and families?
For years now, we have seen extremely suggestive advertisements that have nothing to do about sex or condoms. We have been told, repeatedly, that deodorants are packaged as tools to attract the opposite sex. We have been told that the only way to eat mangoes is to eat it the way Katrina Kaif does. Spill some, lick some. You get the hint. In fact, recently, we learned that even toothpastes need to be sold with sexual undertones.
But apparently, advertisement about a product that actually has to do with sex, can’t show sex.
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