It's target LIC, ICICI after Fair & Lovely ad

MUMBAI: Hindustan Lever Limited's Fair & Lovely is not the only product to have attracted criticism from the All India Women's Democratic Association.

The Delhi based organisation's media monitoring cell, has in fact, zeroed in on at least three other advertisements, including an LIC ad, an ICICI ad and a Tata Yellow Pages ad, which allegedly display gender discrimination and ought, in AIDWA's view, to be taken off air. Only the HLL ad has however, attracted media attention and resulted in channels opting to pull it off air.

In a letter to the information and broadcasting minister, the association points out that the Tata Yellow Pages ad too, is extremely insulting to women. "The concerned advertisement now being shown on various television channels depicts a scene in which a man decides that the baby his wife has delivered is not his, because of its dark complexion. In view of his wife's presumed infidelity, he needs a divorce lawyer - the information according to the ad is available in Tata Yellow Pages."

AIDWA says the ad is objectionable as -

1. According to statistics, domestic violence against women as also male infidelity are among the main reasons for disruption of family life. The ad could have portrayed this reality but instead creates a make-believe "cheating" woman, which not only is a mockery of the reality but also creates a distorted image of women.

2. The ad shows a complexion of the baby as being dark which then becomes reason enough for a divorce. This is not only racist but also sends a wrong message that if your baby happens to be dark and you are not, it would then automatically mean that your wife has been unfaithful.

3. Clearly the ad is directed at a purely male audience only and is premised on the notion that male viewers will respond positively to the demeaning women. Its very basis is therefore patriarchal and also strengthens such retrograte views.

In another letter to the National Human Rights Commission, the AIDWA has drawn attention to the plethora of advertisements being shown on TV channels that are demeaning to women and promote son-preference, which violate the constitutional guarantees for equality as well as representing active discrimination against the girl child.

AIDWA says its media monitoring group had earlier this year written to several companies about their advertisements, but the corporates have chosen to ignore its letters and complaints. Among them figure the Fair and Lovely advertisement, a Life Insurance Corporation ad and that of ICICI, a reputed finance company.

The LIC ad, says AIDWA, is for insurance for future of children: "It specifically mentions expenditure at the time of a daughter's marriage and for a son' education. It is objectionable on the following grounds: it projects a daughter as a liability and a son as an investment; it discriminates between a male and female child by denying the girl the right to the same educational facilities as her brother; it strengthens the stereotype, harmful to women that the only future for a young woman is marriage; by assuming expenses at the time of a daughter's marriage it promotes the concept of dowry."

AIDWA general secretary Brinda Karat says the organization had demanded that the ad be withdrawn, but that its plaint was ignored.

In the ICICI ad, a husband is shown applying putting 'sindur' on his bride's forehead, and the word 'suraksha' (protection) appears. AIDWA says the ad is is objectionable on the ground that it clearly links protection only to the husband thus promoting the erroneous notion that a woman is incapable of looking after herself and requires a husband to do so; it is also discriminatory to single women.

The Press Council, says the AIDWA, has expressed its inability to act, as its jurisdiction does not extend to advertisements.

Karat now says that failing self regulation by broadcasters, it is incumbent on the government to take swift action against such ads. AIDWA has also demanded that the I&B ministry could also take the initiative for corrective measures against the companies that sell their products through such advertisements and that NGOs be given representation on inter ministerial committees that look into such issues.

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