Statement from Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India
While the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is trying to push contraceptive use with specific focus on spacing methods for family planning, the advisory by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry is poised to undo decades of progress on sexual and reproductive health. Although only 5.6 per cent of men use condoms, they are one of the earliest and safest contraceptives that not only act as a spacing method, but also a barrier against HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Condoms are one of the few spacing methods preferred by couples and encourage men to take equal responsibility in family planning.
The I&B ministry restriction is based on the need to protect children from ‘vulgar’ content and to prevent them from developing interest in ‘unhealthy practices’. Children today have access to various channels of media and information with a lot of content that we have no control over. What we need is a more sensitive approach without compromising on information and advocating for sexual and reproductive choice. If advertisements are a way to create the demand for safe sex and family planning, then we need to ensure that it is not stifled by restrictions. Instead, like in the film industry, we can grade advertisements by content and slot their telecast accordingly instead of removing all advertisements.