Regulatory body had banned condom ads to protect "gentle minds of youth"
It says it recognizes debate, and has deferred ban decision to its board
A ban on condom advertising by Pakistani authorities – who have since backtracked on the restriction – has sparked a debate and divided the socially liberal and conservative sides of the country.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) had issued a directive to TV and FM radio broadcasters not to air advertisements for condoms in an attempt to ameliorate the “negative impact” of the content on “tender and gentle minds of youth and children,” according to local media.
“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,” the initial directive read, according to the country’s Dawn newspaper.
The directive threatened ‘legal action” against media that defied the ruling.
While religious voices in this deeply conservative Muslim nation have voiced their support for the ban, advocates point that it is at odds with government population control initiatives and a more progressive attitude toward family planning.
Such ads are a rarity in the country, which has a rapidly growing population.
Faced with the opposition to the ban, the body acknowledged that it has raised “social, medial and population control” concerns and has since softened its stance and deferred the decision to its board.
In a document titled, “We value opinion on all decisions,” the regulatory body explained its rationale, suggesting that the decision “triggered a debate in the country as to whether this is a regressive step or not” and that “Pakistani public opinion is diametrically opposed on such social issues.”
In a situation where public opinion is so sharply divided, it said, “it is a challenge for the regulator to take a decision acceptable to all.”
“In the larger public interest, PEMRA, recognizing both shades of opinion in our society, has decided to put this decision for vetting to its board for further deliberations.”
Until this decision is made, there will be no blanket ban on these advertisements as long as they are not aired during times when children are expected to be watching TV and “special care … given to the use of language and visuals to conform to our cultural values which are going through a slow evolutionary process.”
This is not the first time the regulator has clashed with the prophylactic industry. Last year, PEMRA banned a condom ad after receiving complaints, calling it “immoral” and contrary to religious norms.