Regulation before restriction
The biggest challenge for the Indian economy today is undoubtedly managing the rapidly increasing population of our country. Standing at 1.324 billion and presenting a 1.2 per cent annual growth rate, the numbers in the near future are only expected to escalate. Given the numbers, what is even more frightening is that 23.6 per cent of our population still lives below the poverty line: a staggering 276 million people. The lack of education, the absence of access to basic resources and a general disengagement from the pantheons of modern civilisation has further cemented their position at the bottom of our society. What plagues their condition is possibly this: the endless entrapment in a vicious cycle of illiteracy, growing population, lack of access to facilities, disease, debt and further poverty. Given this milieu, the need to advocate for contraception to nip the problem at its bud is categorically enhanced. Families living in rural areas or those among the urban poor dwelling on pavements and under flyovers, are commonly witnessed having over five children in each family, sometimes exceeding even ten. The lack of access to contraception and birth control measures, along with the physiological need of coitus, has left them distraught. Amid this crisis, the new regulation to discontinue the broadcast of condom ads on television between 6am-10pm, is a distant departure that does not attend to the imminent need of our society. Despite poverty, television and educated advertisements still continue to permeate the sensibilities of even the poorest. With community watching, or huddling up before electronics showrooms to catch a game of cricket—the average Indian, even the poorest, remains connected to technology, first through the television and the radio. This decision emanates from the view that condom advertisements are unsuitable for children's knowledge. Given their explicit content, often bordering on sensual display of sexualised tendencies, they do, unquestionably present content not viable for children. However, this reason cannot be sufficient to discontinue the entire act of advertising condoms during the prime hours of television viewing. Regulation could be utilised as a far more critical tool than complete restriction. Authorities could control the appropriate broadcasting of these advertisements, by preventing their telecast on channels that are meant for children or young adults. Further, regulation could be exercised in the nature of these advertisements. Instead of displaying the act of sexual engagement, the advertisements could come out as statutory warnings without graphic details. The act of entirely dismantling these advertisements, sighting the concern for children, does not suit the sensibilities or requirements of our society today. In fact, measures should be undertaken to further propel the knowledge and information propagating the use of condoms and birth control pills that safely prevent unwanted pregnancies, putting a cap on our growing population while assisting those who are entrapped in the vicious cycle of poverty-overpopulation-illiteracy-disease. Repeated pregnancies have been a growing concern that has today made India the country with the largest number of stunted children in the world. Malnutrition among children and a low mortality rate for new mothers has plagued the health of our society. Amid this, a new study by The Lancet Global Health medical journal, disclosed on Monday that a total of 1.56 crore abortions had been conducted in India in the year 2015; of this, 81 per cent has been done at home through oral medication, shying away from visiting hospitals and clinics in the fear of stigma. While oral pills do not impinge upon health, provided they are consumed within a nine-week gestational period, they do present complications if not consumed at correct intervals under proper guidance. These figures of growing population, numbers living in abject poverty and the reality of abortions conducted behind closed doors, should be an awakener for our authorities and members of the civil society to begin a motivated drive to control the entire process of birth and birth control in our country. Rather than being forced to follow the crude measures of forced sterilisation or adopting a one-child policy, we must open our perceptions to the possibilities of utilising the technology that is at our disposal today. We cannot regress into further primitivity by dismantling the idea of contraception. Our society needs condoms to be used correctly. Television access paves the way for an effective dissemination of this knowledge. Besides advertisements, the government should concentrate more efforts to discuss the need for birth control measures in and propagate its use among the poorer sections. We mustn't deny that better birth regulations will protect our children and their health more effectively than constrained television viewing.