Condom advert with ex-porn star angers Indians

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A condom company has been forced to pull down an advertisement promoting their popular Manforce brand ahead of the major Hindu festival of Navratri in the western state of Gujarat after protests by some Indians. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi explains the controversy.

Just days before the nine-day festival was to begin on Thursday, huge billboards went up in several cities in the state in which the Canadian actress of Indian origin Sunny Leone is seen advising people to “Play this Navratri, but with love [Aa Navratriye ramo, paraantu prem thi]”.

A former porn star who has made a successful transition to the role of leading lady in hit Bollywood movies, Ms Leone has a massive fan following in India and is the brand ambassador for Manforce, the country’s biggest condom company.

The advert outraged some conservative Indians who accused the contraceptive firm of “taking marketing to an all-time low”.

Many took to social media sites to criticise the “offending advert” and the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) even lodged a complaint with the government, calling for an immediate ban on it.

“This is an irresponsible and immature attempt to boost sales by putting all our cultural values at stake,” the organisation said in a petition to Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, CAIT general secretary Praveen Khandelwal said: “Navratri is a pious festival which symbolises the strength of women and linking condoms with the festival is highly objectionable.”

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