The Information and Broadcasting Ministry issued an advisory on Monday, December 11 which directed television channels to restrict the broadcast of condom ads between 10 pm and 6 am. This has been done to safeguard children from the sensuous content being shown in such ads. On its face, it seems like a reasonable proposition but it may not be good for a country on its way to win the population race.
Sexual education has always been frowned upon in India. Indian culture has treated sex as a taboo. This medieval practice is a regular feature of our society. The I&B Ministry has cited the Cable Network Rules of 1994 that prohibits advertisements that create a sense of unhealthy practices in children. Nowadays, children engage themselves in a variety of content across television and internet and the government believes that it is their duty to protect the children from “indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes or treatment” in such ads.
This showcases us the archaic mindset of our lawmakers. It is against the development goals of the government. This ban also undermines the intelligence of TV viewers and reduces us to baboons. On one hand, the government aims to promote sexual health among adolescents and youth and on the other hand, it undermines them. The ban can also be called arbitrary and may not stand the test of judicial scrutiny.
The social costs of this ban are also high. A major portion of Indian population still resides in villages where the lack of information on sexual health and condoms has led to the breakout of the population. This ban is counterproductive as it will curb the spread of information related to condoms and will lead to worsening the issue of sexual health in India.
The cost of such bans outweighs its benefits. The I&B Ministry and the Advertising Standards Council are overlooking the real issue, which is to review the content of specific advertisements individually for offensive themes and decency. The government should work on putting out adequate information without compromising on decency.