Condom ads: Don’t ban, regulate the content, experts to govt

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I & B), released an advisory to ban condom ads on television, during the day time from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. My Medical Mantra tries to answer why safe sex is a taboo and how the recent Lancet report study is a shocker for us by claiming that teenage abortion is a startling reality in the country. However, experts say that these ads need to be informative, useful and should be presented in a better way

Condom-Adv

Recently, a study published in the Lancet journal highlighted how abortions in India are a stark reality. And majorly about 81 per cent of these abortions are done by taking medicines at homes instead of going to the hospitals.

On one hand, we are fighting the menace of self-supervised abortions and on the other; we are banning the condom ads during prime time. Going by this, experts in the city have posed a question of how we are still fighting inadequate sex education in the country.

One of the interesting things that the study points out is about promotion safe sex. ‘The study findings indicate that new strategies are needed in India to improve access to safe abortion services, especially medical abortion. Although expanding the scope of providers would be one important step, other strategies such as reducing stigma, simplifying training requirements, and delinking training for medical and surgical abortion would also be required’, it stated.

The study further added that a total of 15.6 crore abortions that took place in the country in 2015.

Another study from the Lancet journal revealed that, in the year 2015, 15.6 million abortions occurred in India. The abortion rate was 47·0 abortions per 1000 women aged 15 to 49 years. “The study seems to be extrapolated information. Firstly, 15 to 49 years is the reproductive age group anyway. So when I say, 81 per cent consumed medicines for abortion at home, how will the data be recorded anyway,” said Dr Rishma Pai, President of FOGSI.

In health facilities, 3.4 million abortions were obtained. 11.5 million abortions were medication abortions done outside of health facilities, and 0.8 million abortions were done outside of health facilities using methods other than medication abortion.

“Safe sex is a taboo in the society. Sex education is a must. Unless we show ads that promote safe sex, how will it ever enshrine in children. Yes, sexually explicit content can be banned. But, banning condom ads won’t do any good. Instead, modify these ads to be more children friendly,” said Dr Sagar Karia, psychiatrist at Sion Hospital and LTMG College and secretary of Bombay Psychiatric Society.

Dr Pai further said, “I am totally up for sex education. But I agree with the government to ban these ads. Because, they are way too sensationalising and provocative with zero emphasis on scientific facts. So, these ads need to be informative and useful.”

Prof Dr Rajan B Bhonsle, a senior sex therapist and counsellor, Hon Professor and Head of the Department of Sexual Medicine at K.E.M Hospital and Seth G.S.Medical College, Mumbai said, “I am not against condom ads. In fact, I have been stressing on the importance of sex education since a very long time. However, these condom ads are titillating in nature with no factual content about safe sex. Hence, if the content in these ads are presented in a better way, it would be yield positive results.”

“Condom ads through their sexualisation create curiosity amongst the youth but in reality do not give out any information about its use and how it can be protecting one not only from unwanted pregnancies but sexually transmitted diseases as well. We need to create a safe space even on television where children can find accurate information as mis-information is dangerous and bad sexual experiences can be very traumatic and jarring especially for children,” Janki Mehta, consultant psychotherapist and founder of Mind Mandala.

Banning condom ads is a solution to complaints received by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), by viewers last month claiming that these products were showing explicit adult content.