You know that uncomfortable moment when you are watching TV with your family and suddenly, an ad for Trojan or Durex shows up on the scene and your pre-teen daughter or son wants to know why ribbed is more pleasurable, or what exactly was being advertised? Well, if you are in Pakistan, you needn’t worry about such a thing happening; the Muslim-majority conservative nation has banned all ads for condoms and all other contraceptives and birth control measures from airing on prime time TV and radio.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) earlier this week imposed a blanket ban on all “advertisements being aired on various satellite TV channels/FM Radios, marketing contraceptive/birth control/family planning product.”
It’s reasoning? In its own exact words, the “general public is very much concerned on the exposure of such products to the innocent children, which get inquisitive on features/use of the products. Parents have shown apathy on marketing/advertisement of such products and demanded its ban on satellite TV channels and FM Radios.”
Never mind the burgeoning population of Pakistan, which with 193 million people, is already the world’s sixth-largest country by population, and given the current growth rate, the number, according to United Nations estimates, is expected to cross 244 million by 2030. If that happens, it would surpass Brazil and possibly also Indonesia.
However, following a public backlash on both traditional and social media, as well as from civil society, the regulatory authority eased its rules somewhat on Saturday. In a notice that it posted on its Twitter account, PEMRA referred to the “debate in the country” triggered by its decision and acknowledged the “social, medical and population control concerns.”
It also cited “religious and cultural compulsions” in the same breath, and pending a final decision to be taken later, it revoked the blanket ban imposed earlier, and instead said “these ads would not be aired during primetime (children viewing time).” It added that the ads that do air should take special care in “the use of language and visuals to conform to our cultural values which are going through a slow evolutionary process.”
Ads for family planning products are already rare in the conservative country, and according to government statistics, the already low use of contraceptives in Pakistan fell by another 7.2 percent during 2015. According to Dawn, a local newspaper, sexually transmitted diseases afflict millions in Pakistan, and about 94,000 people have contracted HIV, which killed about 2,800 people in 2015.