Women's rights

‘Shocking, regressive’: Ad for Sony reality show that equates abortion with killing draws criticism

Activists say that the advertorial promoting ‘Zindagi ke Crossroads’ gives the impression that abortion is a crime even though it is legal in India.

An advertorial titled “Mother asked to kill her own child” that was published in The Times of India on Wednesday has drawn strong objections from health and women rights activists. The ad promoted the first episode of reality show Zindagi ke Crossroads on Sony Entertainment Television. The episode, which was about a woman trying to decide whether she should abort her foetus with genetic abnormalities, was aired on Wednesday night.

The ad and the show were “misleading, discriminatory towards women and stigmatise abortion and abortion seekers”, said Pratigya, a campaign for gender equality and safe abortion.

Several activists also criticised the ad for equating abortion with killing. In India, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 allows women to terminate their pregnancy under certain circumstances.

The feminist health activist Deepa Venkatachalam described the ad as shocking. “The level of callousness is quite objectionable and this promotional material is an affront to all the struggles that women face in accessing safe abortions,” she said. “The fact that a public media platform thought of having an advertisement which equates abortion to killing is extremely disturbing.”

The show involves having a studio audience discussion crucial decisions made by characters in fictional situations that are evidently drawn from real-life, according to the producers.

‘Not helping anybody’

Experts are concerned that such ads could undermine the right of women to take decisions about their reproductive health. “The decision to terminate a pregnancy is personal, and several courts have upheld the view that the decision to terminate is of the woman,” said Dr AL Sharda, director of Population First, which is involved with a campaign to sensitise the media about producing gender-sensitive reports and ads.

Sharda said the advertorial gave the impression that abortion is a crime even though it is legal in India. “We are glad that the subject is being discussed in the open but a insensitive portrayal may do more harm than good, affecting the access to abortion for women,” said Sharda, who is also a part of Pratigya.

Venkatachalam said the language of the advertorial was regressive and took an “extremely judgemental” stand on abortion and disability. “We should be more careful as they are already stigmatised and such advertisements discussing the issue of abortion in such an insensitive manner is not helping anybody,” she said.

Sama, a resource group working on issues related to women and health, demanded that the “irresponsible and violative advertising and show content be discontinued immediately”. The show is available online. The group is writing to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as well as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to “take necessary steps to ensure that such regressive, discriminatory broadcasts and publicity resources that violate human rights are disallowed.”

Scroll.in emailed questions about the advertorial and the episode to Sony Entertainment. This story will be updated if the company responds.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.