The humanitarian effort to make contraception more widely available in Pakistan, the sixth most populated country in the world, just took a step back. On Tuesday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) pulled a commercial off the air that advertised a line of condoms on the grounds that it was indecent. The condoms come from DKT International, a non-profit that focuses on family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention.
In its directive to Pakistan’s Broadcasting Association, PEMRA noted that the ad was “perceived as indecent, immoral and in sheer disregard to our socio-cultural and religious values,” according to the Express Tribune. The commercial has also been criticized by many Pakistanis for being too racy and failing to discuss condom use as a family planning tool.
By Western standards, it’s not much to raise eyebrows: supermodel Mathira Mohammed tends adoringly to her less attractive, new husband, even asking neighbors for ice to cool his drink, to the consternation of the couple next door. Finally, Mohammed’s husband fesses up: The beautiful woman adores him because he uses Josh condoms, which, by the way, are also available in strawberry flavor.
One columnist, Zahra Peer Mohammed, wrote in Pakistan’s Express Tribune that she supported PEMRA’s take-down of the ad because it missed the mark in its portrayal of women. While Josh’s efforts to advertise birth control are laudable, the commercial tells viewers that women are objects that can be made submissive through sex, she writes. The columnist says condom ads can be delivered in a more culturally sensitive way “that works in a conservative, fiercely patriarchal society where education and awareness about sex is abysmal.”
Currently, an estimated 27 percent of Pakistan’s 193 million residents have access to birth control. In a society where conversations about family planning are often taboo and fraught with religious undertones, efforts to curb family sizes remain an uphill battle.