PEMRA, banning an ad on contraception makes no sense

The ad has respected our societal norms; the message, clothes and language. So then how is it vulgar or immoral?

Maheen Sheikh July 24, 2013
From banning websites over blasphemous content to the recent ban on the advertisement for contraception, Pakistan seems to be headed in the wrong direction. The problem at hand is not just the ban, but the authority that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has assumed - the power to ban anything.

As a citizen of this country, I have a few concerns.

Where exactly is democracy and our right to the freedom of speech?

Pemra is abusing its power here. They are banning content on the internet based on what they find inappropriate. However, this content may not actually be inappropriate but educational. Additionally, they can’t install filters to block ‘immoral’ and ‘blasphemous’ content but they are quick to filter out websites describing the plight of the Shia, Ahmadis and Baloch communities - why?

The state of our judicial system is laughable; convicted terrorists roam about free while the price of samosas and content on the internet is deliberated upon.

What is wrong with a contraception advertisement? Why is sex education or awareness considered taboo?

I find it hard to comprehend why there hasn’t been a massive outrage against websites being banned. This leads me to believe that a majority of the people do, in fact, agree with such bans and the insignificant amount (including myself) of internet users are restricted to using micro blogging websites like Facebook and Twitter.

In this day and age, where sex dominates major themes of popular soap operas and songs, why and how is talking about sex vulgar or wrong? It is not enough for us to just tell our children that they were not, in fact, brought into this world by storks. Some form of explanation is required and the implications of this ‘human activity’ have to be clarified.

Unfortunately, even the most elite schools in our country do not provide sex education to their students. So in essence, being a part of the global society and being exposed to social media and mass media talking about sex, the religious aspect of sex, the consequences and diseases that may accompany it, wouldn’t it benefit us if our children received some form of guidance to douse their curiosity? It is because of the absence of such measures that curiosity wins the battle and we see boys resort to porn and girls huddle up in small ‘all girls get-togethers’ as they try to pitch in their two cents acquired from the internet or biology books to put the pieces together and solve the puzzle.

Discussing the concept of sexual intercourse is the same as explaining the phenomenon of the menstruation cycle to girls of age. Both are inevitable and very ‘natural’.

What is interesting to note here is, that even the most educated or ‘modern’ families believe that talking about sex is vulgar or inappropriate. Some families even believe it is highly ‘un-lady like’. While I agree that having illegitimate sex carries social and religious restraints, however, talking about it in a serious environment, mentioning the religious and medical do’s and don’ts will only benefit us in the long run.

Having completed 14 years of education in Karachi, from a well reputed school, I cannot recall even one lecture given to us about sex or its consequences. Why? I don’t know. We had extra-curricular activities like aerobics etc and even a doctor who once enlightened us about the menstrual cycle but the topic of sex was never broached. The doctor went as far as explain to us the advantages of aerobics and how it helps during pregnancy but the questions of how that child appears in our body to begin with was conveniently ignored. Therefore, it is not because our schools lack the resources, it is simply because they think sex education is not as important of a module as aerobics!

Conclusively, how Pemra decided to ban the contraception ad is beyond me. A country with a swelling population, dying due to limited resources and appalling maternal facilities decides to ban a contraception ad in the month of Ramazan is itself a ‘vulgar’ act.

To impose a particular organisation’s description and definition of modesty on approximately 180 million people who could definitely make use of any information with regards to family planning is mind boggling. We often forget, vulgarity and modesty are relative concepts and what might be modest for one might not be modest for another. And every contraceptive advertisement has been set within the bounds of our society’s norms – the message, clothes and language – all have been taken into account appropriately.

So, should we do something about this or sit and wait for our population to increase? Do we expect Green Star to reach every inaccessible village? If we do – we need a reality check!

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Read more by Maheen here or follow her on Twitter @MaheenIshaikh 
Maheen Sheikh Currently studying law at SOAS, University of London and aspiring to become an advocate. Maheen loves reading, writing and yoga. She participates in charity work on the weekends and tweets @MaheenIshaikh (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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