This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Harish Iyer. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Condom Advertising: Why Is Your Bias Selective, Minister?

More from Harish Iyer

Dear Minister Smriti Iraniji,

I just read the announcement by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of India that condom advertisements cannot be aired between 6 AM and 10 PM on television. The directive issued by your department cites rule 7 (7) of the cable television rules that prohibits advertisements influencing children in any undignified or indecent manner. It also cites rule 7 (8), which speaks about prohibiting offensive and indecent themes and treatments.

I have a few questions to ask you, madame minister.

How Are We Protecting Children By Preventing Condom Advertisements?

Let’s speak about influencing young impressionable minds, first. Technically, all persons below the age of 18 are children. I am sure, Minister, since you are so well informed and a mother yourself, you would be aware that sexual interest sets in at a very young age, in today’s times.

According to a survey by MediAngels in 2015, the average age for sexual activity is 13.72 years for boys and 14.09 years for girls. Don’t you think, Minister, that it is important that they know about condom usage at that age? How long will we continue to police our children, and deny them basic education to keep themselves healthy and free from teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases?

Don’t we owe this education to our children in a world where information is available at the click of a mouse and on our mobile screens. Condom advertisements, or advertisements about any product that a child doesn’t understand, in my honest opinion, are a trigger for questions, that they could ask a trusted adult.

I opine that we should rather be encouraging a free flow of thoughts and conversations about sex and safe sex practices. I feel that girls and boys should be explained about periods, sanitary pads and condoms the moment they hit puberty. It doesn’t mean that they would need to think of a moment where they could use them. However, we need to be pragmatic in understanding that sex is not a forbidden fruit – whether we like it or not, approve it or not, it is available for exploration the moment our hormones start jumping in excitement. The best thing we can do for children at that age, is empower them with knowledge. Isn’t it?

 How Do We Prevent Teenage Pregnancy?

In this scientific study published in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics, it was found that there is high prevalence of diseases in females undergoing teenage pregnancy. This United Nations Population Fund study, also notes that there are 62 pregnant teens out of every 1000 women. Here, when we are tackling with such statistics, how do we feel it is right to restrict the right to information to children who may end up getting pregnant or impregnating, by accident.

What About Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

Condoms help to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. I’m sure that you are aware that India is the 3rd nation in the world for the highest number of HIV cases. And it is not just HIV, it is HPV, hepatitis, syphillis, gonorrhoea that could all be reduced by safer sex practices. Yes, older children need to know about sex, sexuality and STDs so that they can protect themselves.

If Sexualised Ads Are A Problem Why Is There A Selective Bias Against Condoms?

Madame Minister, have you seen the Aam Sutra advertisement, where Katrina Kaif plays with a mango and speaks in a sexy tone? Never before, has a fruit besides apple from the era of Adam and Eve, has been so sexualised. Everything from cars to perfumes to beauty soaps, to even hair oils have been sexualised.

Why Don’t We Regulate Serials That Are Regressive And Unscientific?

Speaking about influencing young impressionable minds, how is it good to grow up thinking that you can fight with your mother in law over a spoon? Or be told that, you cannot go to work – if the husband doesn’t like laddos made by her, she cannot go to work in Sasural Simar Ka. While it sounds funny, it is an insult to our collective intelligence as a nation. A recent serial called “Shakti” completely misrepresents transpeople, they make no attempt to understand the lives of transgenders who are people whose gender is not the same as popularly dictated by their sex.

Why Do We Not Take Measures To Desexualise Content Instead?

For the sake of argument – why can’t the directive be to have condom advertisements that speak about safety from diseases and pregnancy, rather than pleasure from 10 AM to 6 PM. Also, how is it saving children from viewing this content, when children usually reach home around 4-5 PM from school.

Ministerji, your dream of a free liberal India with ignited and open minds is a dream we share.I wish to, however, add that your measure of wiping out condom ads from our television sets for eight hours of the day, is not a step in that direction. We are in an age when we need to educate children about sex and sexuality in our schools, by imparting age-appropriate education, as they grow up. The truth cannot be hidden from them.

Roti, Kapda, Makaan and Condom should be the agenda of every government, of every nation that claims to be open minded, pluralistic and respectful of science and ground realities of our times. A better stance would have been to have condom ads that focus on protection and not pleasure.

I hope you read this and I hope you understand.

Thank you,
Harish Iyer

You must be to comment.

More from Harish Iyer

Similar Posts

By Accountability Initiative

By Suneel

By Bashiruddin Faruki

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below