Sex invariably gets governments’ knickers in a twist. Last week, television channels were banned from showing condom advertisements between 6 am and 10 pm. With India desperately needing contraception, the advisory seemed to be, er, counterproductive. A UN report predicts that India’s population will overtake China’s around 2024. Currently China has 1.41 billion inhabitants while India has 1.34 billion—which goes to show that a lot of sex is happening in both countries.
So Indians do need a lot of condoms.
We are a complex country; our culture shaped by invasions and alien influences. After the Muslim invasions, Indian women were sent into seclusion by the men to protect them from predatory conquerors. Later, Victorian England, which was horrified at the thought of mixing sex and pleasure, drilled its mores into the Indian psyche. As a result, the status of our women plummeted lower than chattel. But in spite of Sri Ram Senas, anti-Valentine activists and anti-Romeo squads, India is a land of opportunity. For, where else in Asia can a porn star such as Sunny Leone enter mainstream films and is hired by advertising agencies—like in the ad in question?
Sex and government have been closely intertwined ever since the Catholic Church deepened its hold over Europe. The dismal aesthetics of Indian bureaucracy is also responsible for preventing India’s population explosion. The ghastly yellow posters of the 1970’s, with the emoticons of a family of four hardly encouraged ‘Hum do, hamare do’. Then Socialism ruled, and life expectancy was low due to malnutrition, epidemics and natural calamities. Since the majority of Indians depended on agriculture, more children were necessary to sustain families. Liberalisation put an end to such imperatives.
Industry and the FMCG sector boomed. Advertising became global and contemporary. The era of conceptual communication began. Contraception became a private sector enterprise when Raymond launched KamaSutra. KamaSutra itself is evocative of ancient Indian culture, prompting advertising legend Alyque Padamsee to give popular connect to the product. Indian television viewers had never seen anything like that. But it was undeniaby Indian.
The prophylatic commercial the government banned last week is undoubtedly explicit. But the knee-jerk reaction to treat all visual sexual depictions as pornography shows cultural insecurity. However, the danger is that such material could also negatively influence the mind of children and adolescents. Which is why TV sets sold in the West have the parental control feature. An electronic V-Chip reads a pre-programmed signal to enable parents to choose what kids can see. Instead of bans, the government must make this a mandatory feature in Indian TV sets.
And hold your horses, those who are crying government suppression. Vulgar and religiously offensive condom ads have been banned all over the world, including in sexually aware America, the UK and Europe. Unfortunately, sex is the elephant in the room of most Indian homes. Children should be educated in the correctness of sexual behaviour, the economic pitfalls of the population explosion, the threat of fatal STDs and sexual predators online and otherwise. Instead of just banning commercials, leave the remote control in the hands of the sensible and be done with it.