Monday, 28 November, 2022
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India bans condom ads because 50-year-olds still can’t deal with 15-year-olds having sex

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The man behind the first controversial KamaSutra ad says the government banning condom ads till 10 pm on television channels because they are deemed inappropriate for children is counter-productive. 

It all depends on the condom ad. Does the advertisement deliberately attempt to entice children? But by ‘children’, if you mean 15-year olds, then you are in the wrong century.

Young Indians, particularly in urban areas are very knowledgeable, thanks to increasing access to internet and information. If the government feels that young people under 15 will be influenced to use condoms after watching these commercials, then I would say that it is a good idea to promote safe sex.

It is important that they are protected against sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. Banning such advertisements will not help. It will only get young people, what they call ‘children’, to explore that which has been banned. A young child is more inclined towards trying forbidden things.

While working in the area of public communications for over half a century, I found that as soon as you ban something young people are drawn to it. They find it exciting and thus end up indulging in what is beyond their reach.

It will be a mistake on the government’s part to impose a blanket ban. If they feel that condom ads are leading people towards experimentation and sex, then they are wrong.

What they can do, instead, is have sex education in schools. Waiting till college to learn about sex is too late. The rapid growth in population shows that both young and old people are indulging in sex. Sexually transmitted diseases are also growing at a terrifying rate.

Our approach towards sex is outdated. Any time the trope is invoked, it comes under scrutiny. This is a very old-fashioned spotlight and the bulb should be removed.

There is a section of Indians — includes people over the age of 50 — whose attitude hasn’t changed, which says you can do anything you like, so long as it’s on the sly. However, as soon as these actions reach the mainstream media, they feel, a sense of embarrassments and a misplaced protective instinct. These people then attempt to protect younger generation from what they perceive is the ‘devilish condom.’

I was involved in the Kama Sutra condom ad. It was my agency that spearheaded that campaign. It caused a certain amount of controversy back then and a lot of public irritation. When I was called before the Advertising Standard Council of India, we were questioned about the slogan in the commercial: ‘For the pleasure of making love.’ The obvious question that we raised was, what else is a condom used for? Is it used for blowing balloons on Holi and flinging them at onlookers? The silence that followed was defeaning. I never heard from them again. The advertisement is still running.

Condoms are the cheapest and most convenient mode of protection against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. These are not issues you should sweep under the carpet. It is vital that they be warned against the dangers that unprotected sex entails. I have advised many ministries over the years, and instead of banning condom advertisements they should add a line saying that this is your best protection against STDs.

If we can update them on atrocities happening across the world, then why should sex be taboo? It will not help to live in denial about the fact that young people will indulge in sex. Rather the better approach is to dispense knowledge so that they are fully equipped to deal with its consequences.

In the light of increasing access, we must revise the age that constitutes ‘children’. Between the age of 15-18, they should be considered young adults and be treated with an increased level of understanding.

Censorship of important information is deplorable. Young adults deserve to have access to such information.

Alyque Padamsee is advertising guru based in Mumbai.

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  1. I’m sorry Alyque, you are missing the point. You have a lot of younger (than 15) kids watching TV, are you saying 5 year olds should have sex education as well? There might be a bunch of people wanting these ads off TV for altogether different reasons etc. but that’s not the point. Why do you think countries like the US and England don’t have condom ads at prime time? The point is you don’t want to make a very young kid’s life unnecessarily complex, let him/her have a slightly uncomplicated childhood. Explain sex to him/her once the poor kid has the capacity to understand it. No one’s saying keep sex in the closet. You seem to equate anything mildly regulatory on TV to not talking about it all. An advertisement is not the only means to educate you know, and at times is not the best means either because mostly you have mixed messaging, especially if you are a really young kid. At times, we get caught up in some vaguely intellectual angst that we forget basic, simple logic.

  2. 15yr old having sex? Padmasee saheb, maybe you didn’t catch the SC judgement but Muslims no longer have the privilege of having sex with minor brides.

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