What to do but laugh? The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry, headed by Smriti Irani, has banned the airing of condom ads between 6 am and 10 pm. Why? For the kids!
An advisory issued by the Ministry to cable channels with immediate effect advised them “not to telecast the advertisements of condoms which are for a particular age group and could be indecent/inappropriate for viewing by children. Indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes or treatment shall be avoided in all advertisements.”
Failure to follow this piece of advice would, the advisory silkily reminded them, attract punitive action. The punishment includes imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both on the first offence, and for subsequent offences, imprisonment up to five years, or a fine of Rs 5000.
In issuing this advisory to save the kids, the Ministry invoked the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, banning any “advertisement which endangers the safety of children or create in them any interest in unhealthy practices or shows them begging or in an undignified or indecent manner”.
I’ve never seen a child begging in a condom ad, and don’t think I ever will, so I suppose it’s the first part that the ban on condom ads is meant to speak to. Isn’t it a bit odd that the government doesn’t think Akshay Kumar jumping from building to building on flying motorcycles catching Thums Up would endanger the safety of children or get them interested in unhealthy practices (and it clearly is a practice he adopts, I feel like he’s been doing this for a decade now), but actually thinks condom ads will?
Why does the Ministry even think safe sex is an unhealthy practice? In fact, the best way to ensure that sex, a natural phenomenon, doesn’t become an unhealthy practice is by using condoms consistently and correctly, and educating people about their existence and how to use them. I mean it’s not like India isn’t having sex. We’ve got the population to attest to that. How about some birth control, guys?
It feels likely, by the way, that Sunny Leone-haters had something to do with this. In September, she featured in a Navratri-themed ad encouraging Gujaratis to “play but with love”, which was probably a good idea, since just this August we were laughing about a recent survey that suggested that sex toy sales experience a huge spike in Gujarat during the festival. Alas, the Hindu Yuva Vahini protested against the billboards and made sure they were taken down.
Back in February, women’s groups in Goa also made sure that one of her condom ads was removed from buses there after they found the ads too provocative.