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'Modi Govt Towing the Line of Catholic Church?' Devdutt Pattanaik On New Timing Of Condom Ads

The condom ad ban advisory was met with a lot of criticism. Some even suggested that these ads need to be played more for the children to be made aware of sexually-transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

Adrija Bose | News18.com

Updated:December 12, 2017, 2:59 PM IST
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'Modi Govt Towing the Line of Catholic Church?' Devdutt Pattanaik On New Timing Of Condom Ads
File photo of Devdutt Pattanaik.

New Delhi: The government doesn’t think condoms, more specifically condom advertisements, are child’s play. So, when the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) sought the ministry’s suggestions on the “explicit sexual content” in condom ads, the Information & Broadcasting ministry decided to prohibit television channels from airing any condom advertisements through the day till 10 pm. Why? Because the commercials were “indecent and can impact children”.

The advisory was met with a lot of criticism. Some even suggested that these ads need to be played more for the children to be made aware of sexually-transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

Firstly because we are a billion-plus unmanageable population, and second, there is very little access to safe abortion methods in this country, even in urban areas.

Some others called the government’s move ‘backward’.

A study by the Lancet Global Health has shown that there were a total of 15.6 million (1.56 crore) abortions in India in 2015. This, while the Centre has been putting out only one figure — 7 lakhs — every year over the past 15 years. The study also shows that an overwhelming number of women —81% — take medicines at home, instead of going to hospitals.

Author Devdutt Pattanaik, known for writing books on mythology, also criticized the government’s move.

“We don’t mind if children are exposed to gratuitous violence in films and news. But we are terrified if they are exposed to even the slightest suggestion of sex,” he tweeted.

Pattanaik, who is currently in Prague, took a picture of himself with the famous statue of the boy with golden penis, also called "Youth", in the background and shared it with his ‘thoughts’ on the condom ad ban. “What kind of weird parenting is this?” he asked.

Condoms have been considered to be an evil by successive governments for a while now.

In 2014, Dr Harsh Vardhan, then Union health minister, suggested that AIDS can be prevented with Indian values, not condoms. He was probably taking a cue from Sushma Swaraj, who in 2003, preached ‘abstinence, self-control and single-partner sex’ for the prevention of AIDS.

Sushma Swaraj was the health minister under the Vajpayee government at the time and she had specifically said that condoms “are against the Indian culture,” resulting in condom advertisements being taken off from television.

The Pattanaik added that it is quite normal for policymakers to propagate the ‘virtue of celibacy’ and go against condoms.

“Following the path of the Catholic Church, despite hating Christian missionaries?” a tongue-in-cheek Pattanaik asked on Twitter.

It is a well-known fact that the Catholic Church teaching does not allow the use of condoms as means of birth control, arguing that abstinence and monogamy in heterosexual marriage is the best way to stop the spread of AIDS.

In 2012, an Irish hospital denied abortion to Savita Halappanavar, a dentist of Indian origin, even when she was going through a life-threatening miscarriage in the 17th week of her pregnancy. Savita eventually died of severe infections.

Her case went on to become the focus of international debate and protests over Ireland's strict laws on abortion.

For many women in Ireland, Halappanavar’s death continues to be the symbol of all that hasn’t changed in the Catholic country’s attitude towards abortion, no matter how endangered the life of a pregnant woman could be.

The Catholic Church’s argument, over the years has been that artificial birth control devalued the purpose of sexual intercourse and diminished responsibility.

Officially, as Pius XI ruled in 1930, frustrating the procreative act is "an offence against the law of God and nature, and those who indulge in such acts are branded with the guilt of a grave sin".

However, a 2002 US survey revealed that 96% of sexually active Catholic women used birth control.

Earlier this year, the head of the Knights of Malta, an ancient Catholic order, resigned over a dispute with the Vatican about free condoms that had become a battle of wills between the heads of two of the world’s oldest institutions and a test of Pope Francis’s authority.

Grand Master Matthew Festing, 67, resigned after the Pope asked him to step down. Grand masters of the institution, which was founded in the 11th century, usually hold their posts for life. Festing and the Vatican were locked in a dispute since early December, when one of the order’s top officials, Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, was sacked after the charity distributed condoms as part of a project for the poor.

This is how condoms are seen by the Catholic Church. Sinful, and can result in even sacking of top officials.

Is the change of timing on condom ad and our ministers’ ideas of wearing the ‘Indian culture’ instead of condom just a beginning on the same path? Let’s hope not.

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| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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