Beti Bachao Abhiyaan: Indicting Culprits

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | February 19, 2015
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The campaign conceptualised by Grey India aims to address the social evil of female foeticide, by conveying that even thinking about it is a crime.

No matter how many Kalpana Chawlas or Saina Nehwals India produces, there are many households in the country obsessed with having a 'male child'. Unlike the perception, despite modernisation and the growth of educated middle-class, a large number of female foeticide happens in well-informed, educated families.

Data from Government's Census suggests that in 1991, the gender ratio figure was 947 females to 1000 males, while ten years later, in 2011, the Census states that it had fallen to 927 females for 1000 males. The report states the number of females per 1000 males, in 2011, was lowest in Haryana at 879. The other states with low female count are Jammu and Kashmir (889) and Punjab (895), followed by Uttar Pradesh (912) and Bihar (918).

Five top performing states in terms of sex ratio were Kerala (1,084 females), Tamil Nadu (996), Andhra Pradesh (993), Chhattisgarh (991) and Odisha (979).

Capturing this insight, Grey has executed three TV campaigns for Government of India's 'Beti Bachao' movement.

Titled 'Plotting', the first ad features a group of men from a semi-urban household. One of them receives a phone call which announces that the daughter-in-law is expecting a girl child. Visibly distraught, they decide to get the child aborted. The second ad is set in a sonography clinic where a mother-in-law is trying to coerce the doctor into revealing the gender of her pregnant daughter-in-law's foetus. Like the first film, she is willing to take steps to do away with the child, by any means, if it's not little "Krishna jee" (Lord Krishna), a boy, that is.

Through the conversation, we understand how the to-be-father is not even willing to think names for a girl child when the wife questions him. He is adamant and forthright that all he wants and expects is a "raja beta". For him, the honour and pride of his family name and his own social respect is derived naturally, only from a son.

All ads end with the police siren in the background as a pair of handcuffs appear in front of the camera with a voice-over - 'such thoughts instigate female foeticide. Even thinking about it is equal to murder.' The campaign ends with a montage of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech on saving the girl child.

Malvika Mehra

Samir Datar

Malvika Mehra, national creative director and executive vice president, Grey Group India, notes that the campaign brings out the ' hypocritical attitude' ingrained in our society that such practices happen only in backward areas.

"The three films actually cut across a spectrum of middle and upper middle-class, both in smaller towns and bigger cities. Ironically, this issue persists within supposed 'educated' families too," she says.

On being asked why the 'mother' is portrayed as a mute spectator, not even protesting once against the attempt at female foeticide by the family, Mehra says, although it is not a thumb rule, but due to the chauvinistic landscape most of India lives in, women don't have much say in child birth.

"Ironically, some themselves are perpetrators of the crime wanting only a boy or 'raja beta'," she states.

Samir Datar - VP and branch head, Grey Delhi, informs that the Union Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi, wanted 'hard-hitting' films that change behaviour towards the girl child.

Quizzed on the lack of call-to-action message, in terms of reporting such incidents on Government's website, in the campaign, Datar says this campaign aims to highlight what happens behind closed doors in the this country and the mindset of people. According to him, this behavior itself needs to be upfront and out in the open, first and foremost.

The campaign is being promoted on GECs and news channels.

Strong Message?

Pallavi Chakravarti

Pallavi Chakravarti, senior creative director, Taproot India, dubs the 'Beti Bachao' campaign as a much-needed initiative, though it is just the first step in the right direction.

"The intent of the campaign comes through clearly - of wanting to arrest the spread of this practice by arresting the thought process that leads to it," she says, adding that it will raise awareness about how deep-rooted in our society this heinous act really is.

Will it deter people from committing the crime? Chakravarti doubts that. "It will not put the fear of God into the culprits, nor make people act against the wrongdoers," she notes.

A call-to-action message, she believes, where people can report such cases, with a promise that the Government will look into it, would have helped make the message even more effective.

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