Is advertising provoking crimes against women?

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | June 12, 2014
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Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil provoked a storm with his comments in the Assembly yesterday on the subject of rape. According to news reports, he also added that the rise in atrocities against women was due to "obscene images used in advertisements". Is that right, we wanted to know.

And here's what our respondents said. Edited Excerpts.

Priti Nair

Varkha Chulani

Anurradha Prasad

Santosh Padhi

Divyapratap Mehta

Priti Nair, co-founder, Curry Nation

This statement is absolutely rubbish and arbitrary. I think politicians should just end this blame game and start doing some real work to avert such horrific crimes. I think it's time we realised that crimes against women don't happen because of what they wear or what time they venture out; it is the psyche of the individual who commits these crimes that is the problem.

These politicians shouldn't find fault with the advertising industry. We are an extremely self-regulated fraternity and are highly sensitive towards such issues. There are competent authorities who check the work we do. To put it simply, no commercial, in my memory, has explicitly shown a teenage girl being assaulted.

Varkha Chulani, clinical psychologist, corporate trainer and mental health activist

Mr. Patil is just voicing a philosophy that, unfortunately, Indian men have been indoctrinated with - that women are sexual objects that need to be used and are meant to 'service' them. So, what he is mouthing is actually an unfortunate mindset that exists across society. Instead of blaming him (Patil), we need to take a deeper look at this unfortunate psyche towards women in general.

And of course, advertisements are not the trigger. Even if you have a fully clad woman in an ad, it's the mindset of the people that provokes the crime. We, unlike animals, have the ability to think - sex is 'psychosexual' in nature; it is in the mind. So to say the provocation comes from an external trigger - an advertisement - is like going to the level of 'animal instinct'. We humans have the ability to rein in our instincts; thankfully, we have the ability to restrain what is otherwise very instinct-driven. The reason our instincts aren't being reined in is our attitudes towards women in general. If you see a woman as nothing but a sexual creature, then naturally your instinct will get the better of you. Instincts are propelled with this kind of an outlook towards women.

Yes, in ads across the world, there is a trend wherein women are shown exposing; often she is shown using her sexuality to her advantage - a way to climb the corporate ladder, get favours, etc... Unfortunately, in the media, a woman's sensuality and her identity have been correlated. Such repeated propagation leads to indoctrination of ideology.

Anurradha Prasad, chairperson and MD, B.A.G. Network and TV anchor, News24

It's not right to make such a statement. It reflects nothing but the frustration of a person for not being able to control crimes against women. We should condemn it. I also believe our society needs to evolve. It's not that these rapes and other crimes are taking place only today, but they have come to the forefront now. We cannot blame one person or hold one part of society (the ad industry, in this case) responsible for such acts.

We, as a nation, should come together to deal with it. I'm sure ads go through their own censorship process and are released only if they are in line with the advertising standards that have been set.

The point here is that the explosion of the media today is such that things are reaching every nook and corner of the country. Because some illiterate, uneducated people are not 'evolved' enough, the media might have an impact on their mindset. But I don't know how much of it is triggering thoughts that culminate in rape.

Santosh Padhi, chief creative officer, Taproot India

I think the statement is absolutely ridiculous. The government needs to have enough evidence before making a comment like this.

If one out of 100 commercials is done in bad taste, that cannot represent the entire industry. Moreover, advertising is a small industry as compared to the film industry. If the minister has an issue with how women are being projected in ads then he must turn his attention towards films as well... they have wider reach. A 30 second commercial has less power, if any, to influence people negatively, than does a three hour film.

If the government, along with industry bodies, devises any norms/guidelines for the advertising industry, the same must be implemented on other mediums of mass communication as well.

The advertising industry has been working on self-regulation and has been following tight guidelines. Any objectionable content has always been questioned and stopped. We have been extremely conscious when it comes to creating anything around sensitive issues.

Divyapratap Mehta, former national planning director, Publicis Capital

Any crime against women is completely wrong and should not happen. The entire value system of society has to change. The onus of the crime should not be put on any kind of image, movie or song; they do not trigger any violence.

A woman is free to do and wear whatever she wants to. It is the thought that has to change. The fundamentals of society should be changed and it's the men who have to change the way they think; they need to come forward and bring about this shift in their mindset.

It is true that Western society is much more liberal and open in terms of what women can wear and do. We need to create a society of that kind here. In a recent video released in the US, President Obama was quoted saying crime against women has to stop, and that this is something that starts with 'you and me'.

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