After a heated discussion on social media, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Saturday decided to refer its recent decision to ban advertisements of contraceptives on television and FM radio channels to its board for further deliberations.
“In larger public interest, PEMRA is recognising both sides of opinion in our society. Until a final decision is made by the board on this issue, there will not be a complete ban on these advertisements,” a statement issued by the authority said.
The statement said that the understanding would be that these ads would not be aired during primetime (children viewing time), special care would be given to use of language and visuals to conform to our cultural values which are going through a slow evolutionary process.
PEMRA said that the point of views on both sides of the decision being discussed on mass and social media reconfirm that Pakistani public opinion is diametrically divided on such social issues.
“PEMRA keeps receiving complaints from general public and state institutions on violations of code of conduct and other issues. According to law, if complaints have a merit, PEMRA is bound to follow a process and reach a decision which, due to this divide in our society, generates public opinion in favour or against the decision,” it said.
The statement said that PEMRA acknowledges that its recent decision to put a blanket ban on the advertisements of contraceptives has raised social, medical and population control concerns by civil society and many others.
“At the same time, due to our religious and cultural compulsions, there are concerns by parents about the use of language, innuendos and visuals in such advertisements and the primetime slots in which these ads are aired.”
PEMRA had earlier directed TV and radio channels to discontinue airing advertisements, marketing contraceptives and family planning products and the media organisations were warned of “legal actions under PEMRA laws” against failing to follow the directives on such ads.
In a notification, it said, “General public is very much concerned about the exposure of such products to the innocent children, which get inquisitive on features/use of the products.”
Parents have “shown apathy” on the advertisement of such products and demanded a ban on their airing, it further said.
PEMRA last year banned an advertisement by a condom brand, calling it “immoral” and contrary to religious norms after receiving a deluge of complaints from the public.
According to the United Nations, a third of Pakistanis have no access to birth control even though its population is growing by more than two percent a year.
Discussing contraception in public is considered taboo by a sizeable portion of the Pakistani population, while some experts warn the population is growing too fast for the country’s natural resources to support it.