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Objectification of Women in Indian Advertisement: An Analysis

INTRODUCTION

Commercial Advertisement plays crucial role in selling consumer products, it gives valuable information to consumers in relating to products and so consumer can apply his mind to select his preferences. Indian advertisement market is ever booming, companies spend crores of money in promotions. However, most of the advertisements in India are objectifying women irrespective of whatever medium of communication. women are used to promote all kind of goods sometimes such goods are not even related to women consumers.

Most of such advertisement are revealing body parts women in sexual manner, this not only reduces women’s dignity but also her self-esteem in the society and feel of being subjugated to men. such ads also against public morality and tend to corrupt the right-thinking people of the society.

Commercial ads are protected under the wider ambit of art. 19(1)(a) of India constitution. Article 19(1)(a) ensures freedom of speech and expression to all citizens but this right is absolute, its subjected to restrictions. Such restrictions are given under 19(2) of constitution and even commercial advertisement are subjected to it. commercial advertisement can be protected under constitution unless it falls under the reasonable restrictions given under Art. 19(2).

Such obscene advertisement also affects right to live with dignity of women which is part of right to live under Art. 21 of Indian constitution. legal instruments are well enough to curb such objectification of women however, there is no awareness among people and consumers against such advertisements and regulatory authorities also fail to regulate advertisement leading to growth objectification of women in advertisement in India. This trend needs to be stopped else it becomes new normal.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE:

  1. : An Analysis of Indian TV Ads, Juhi P. Pathak

This paper deals with Portrayal of Lasciviousness in Indian advertisements and its impact on the society. the author made very detail study various advertisements that objectify women and made note on it. This paper helps in understanding the level of obscenity and objectify of women in Indian advertisements form the past till now. However, the author also made little reference on legislations to curb such advertisements

  • Law relating to Obscenity and indecent represtation of women, Sanjeev Kumar & Deeksha

This paper makes a detail analysis on various law to curb obscenity and indecent representation of women in the Indian society along with jurisprudential analyses with various case laws. This paper also explains the concept of obscenity in very detail manner and authors also gave some valuable suggestions to curb such advertisements in the society.

  • Analysis of projection of women in Advertisement on society, Monika Gulati

this paper deals with objectification of women in advertisements and its psychological impact on women. Author also made great on consumer awareness and preferences and related with such objectifying ads, Author also used empirical study to understand consumer pattern in India and impact such ads on consumers.

CHAPTER I: COMMERCIAL ADVERTISEMENT IN INDIA IN GENERAL

Indian advertising market is an ever-booming market with an estimated value of 61,878 crores in 2018 and set to reach 85,250 crores by 2021[1]. Advertisement in India serves as a product information bridge for the millions of consumers. However, most of the ads telecasted objectify women and against moral ethical values by revealing more body parts of women is sexual manner. women are used in most of the advertisement to promote products that are not even related to women consumers, women used in promotion of all kind of products from toothpaste to men’s underwear, it happens because it’s believed that women are most sexually appealing and will help in better reach for product. Most of such ads are sexist, erotic, obscene and might make women feel subjugated to men, which not only reduce women’s dignity but also her self-esteem[2]. Such erotic advertisement is also objectionable as mostly it’s against community standards of the society and might corrupt right minded people. for instance most of the men deodorants ads shows women sexually subjugate to men and gets easily seduced by deodorants, even common  products like cooldrinks are not exception for this stupidity, for instance Katrina Kaif in slice advertisement.

COMERCIAL ADVERTISEMENTS UNDER INDIAN CONSTITUTION

Article 19(1)(a) of Indian constitution ensures right to freedom of speech and expression for every citizens. The ambit of the said right is wider, it includes expressing one’s opinion freely by writing, printing, or even by pictures. It’s importance was observed in Romesh Thappar v State of Madras[3] wereit observed that “Freedom of Speech and of Press lay at the foundation of all democratic organizations for without free political discussion no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the process of Government, is possible”. But the question is that even commercial advertisements also included under the wider ambit of Art. 19(1)(a)? initially, it was considered that commercial advertisements is outside freedom of speech and expression as it has only element of trade and commerce and only related to business and same was opined by Apex court in Hamdard Dawakhana v. Union of India[4]. However, the Apex court perception made a U-turn later, in Tata Yellow Pages[5]case the Apex court observed that even commercial speech also covered under Art 19(1)(a) because it product information available to consumers.

But this doesn’t mean that the right enshrined under Art.19(1)(a) is absolute, it’s subjected to restriction. This is because the constitutional framers were aware of its possible abuses and introduced reasonable restrictions for Art.19(1)(a) through Art.19(2) under first amendment of the constitution. Decency and morality are one among the restrictions under Art.19(2) and which women objectification ads mostly touches as it mostly portraits obscenity and against public morality. For instance, in Chndra Raja kumari v.  Police Commissioner[6]it was observed that right to live under Art.21 also includes right to live with dignity and observed that holding beauty contest is repugnant to women dignity under Art. 21.

CHAPTER II: LAWS TO CURB OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN IN ADVERTISEMENT

There is wider number of legislations in India to protect women from all forms of abuses and most of such laws are specific to women only. This is because Art. 15(3) of Indian constitution empowers State to make special provisions to protect women and children. Some of such legislation might also stand-up against objectification of women in advertisement. Some of such legislation are discussed below

INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860

Under Indian penal code, 1860 (IPC), section 292-294 prohibits obscene contents of any form and published or displayed in any medium. The said sections can be invoked in indecent representation of women as it can be obscene and law relating to obscenity can also help[7]. Mostly, such women objectifying ads are obscene and also portrays nudity of women body and may corrupt the minds of right-thinking people of the society. The word  obscenity is never defined under IPC but Judiciary defined the said term several times, for instance in Ranjit D.Udeshi V. State of Maharashtra[8], the court observed that “Even though the word “obscene” has not been defined clearly, use of the words “shall be deemed to be obscene” but anything that creates a fiction, and is lascivious or which appeals to the prurient interest or the effect of which has tendency to deprave and corrupt persons is “obscene” within the meaning of this section.”

THE INDECENT REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN (PROHIBITION) ACT, 1986

The indecent representation of women (prohibition) act, 1986 passed by the parliament with an intent to curb indecent representation of women in advertisements or through any publications or through any form of communication medium like painting, drawing and figures etc. Section 2(c) of the act defines the term indecent representation of women as “the depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman, her form or body or any part thereof in such a way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to, or denigrating, women, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals” the definition is wide enough, it not only limited to indecent representation of women through her body parts but also included its wrongful impact on public morality or morality of such acts. section 3 of the act prohibits publication or exhibit of advertisement that is indecent representation of women in any form.

section 6 of the act imposes punishment for persons who committing offence as given under section 3 of the act, it imposes punishment for advertising of content that is indecent representation of women. section 6 categories first time and second time offender, for first time offender punishment is which may extent to two years maximum and two thousand rupees fine and for second time offender it is imprisonment of maximum five years and five thousand rupees fine.

CABLE TELEVISION NETWORK RULES, 1995

the act made with a legislative intent to regulate the cable television network, it also prohibits cable network operators to telecast content which are against regulated standard and make them liable for the same. Section 6 of the said act prohibits transmit and re-transmit of advertisement unless such ad is in accordance with the prescribed advertisement code. Under section 19 of the said act, the authorised officer is empowered to block cable operators to transmit advertisement which violate section 6 of the said act. Apart from this laws there is Advertisement Standard council of India (ASCI) to regulate and code the minimum public standard for advertisement[9].

in spite of having powerful legislations still such women objectifying ad are telecasted in various medium. one of the reason for this is lack of awareness among people, especially women in the society, most of the women not even think that such advertisement is objectifying them in the society. There is also lack of consumer awareness among people such advertisement made with an intent to occupy consumer mind and influence consumer interest forcing consumer not to make independent decisions in buying. More prosecution should be made against persons who make such abusive advertisement else it this trend will become a new normal.

conclusion

Objectifying ads because it believed that it will helps in better promotion for the products however, such ads will reduce the women dignity in the society and challenge moral standards of the society. Legal instruments are well enough to tackle such objectifying ads but still such ads are continuing one. This is because lack of awareness among consumers and people. Such ads are also harmful for consumers as it blocks consumers from making independent decisions on particular product. If consumers are made aware of such abusive ads there is a chances of change in consumer preferences and make consumers to voice against such abusive ads, this will force such ad content creators to change their path. Apart from this more vigilance is needed for better tackling of such objectifying ads against women. More prosecution should be made against persons who make such abusive advertisement else it this trend will become a new normal.


[1] https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/companies/indian-advertising-market-to-cross-10-billion-mark-in-2019/article26013810.ece#, 12/07/2020, 7:33 AM.

[2] Analysis of projection of women in Advertisement on society, Monika Gulati, G.J.C.M.P., Vol. 3(5): 78-81, p.79.

[3] Romesh Thappar v State of Madras, AIR 1950 SC 124.

[4] Hamdard Dawakhana v. Union of India, AIR 1960 SC 554.

[5] Tata press Ltd. v. MTNL, (1995) 5 SCC 139.

[6] Chndra Raja kumari v.  Police Commissioner , 1998 (1) ALD 810.

[7] Law relating to Obscenity and indecent represtation of women, Sanjeev Kumar & Deeksha, IJLHM, Vol. 2(1) P.3.

[8] Ranjit D.Udeshi V. State of Maharashtra, 1965 AIR 881.

[9] Portrayal of Lasciviousness: An Analysis of Indian TV Ads, Juhi P. Pathak, IOSR, Vol 20(4), p. 24.


Cite this article (The Bluebook 20th ed.)-

Dinesh Kumar, Objectification of Women in Indian Advertisement: An Analysis, Ex Gratia Law Journal, (October 1, 2020), https://exgratialawjournal.in/journal/volume-1-issue-2/objectification-of-women-in-indian-advertisement-an-analysis-by-dinesh-kumar/.

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Author

Dinesh Kumar
Student - School of Law, Vels Institute of Science, Technology & Advanced Studies (VISTAS)