Copywriters at a loss for words for birth control ad

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 September, 2002, 12:00am

An advertising campaign to publicise a new government-approved emergency contraceptive has been delayed because copywriters are at a loss to find the Hindi equivalent of English expressions like 'morning-after' or, more importantly, 'emergency contraceptive'.

The recently launched drug Mifepristone can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. But the sooner it is taken after intercourse, the more effective it is.

Besides unexpected linguistic obstacles, the proposed campaign to popularise the drug is facing a series of moral, ethical, legal and even health hurdles, despite having been cleared for sale by the Drug Controller and being easily available from chemists across the country.

'It is extremely difficult to advertise it in newspapers or on television because India is still a very conservative country,' eminent gynaecologist Indira Hinduja said. 'We have to raise awareness of its availability and how it works, but copywriters are still groping for the right Hindi words to spread the message among ordinary, non-English-speaking people without hurting sensibilities.'

The director of the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Dr C. P. Puri, said even posters and brochures for Mifepristone could not be launched in rural areas in the absence of appropriate Hindi words and phrases.

Dr Puri said most of the seven million abortions in India each year were performed illegally.

But groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad say the morning-after pill will induce under-age girls to indulge in promiscuous sex.

Social activists have also warned that repeated use could lead to dangerous long-term effects.

They say using the pill amounts to 'unsupervised abortion', which is illegal.

Expressing concern about safety and risk management, some doctors have warned that indiscriminate use of the drug by uneducated women could even result in deaths.

Besides bleeding, it has several side-effects, such as nausea and changes in the menstrual cycle.

Although Mifepristone cannot be sold without a prescription and should be administered in a hospital with blood transfusion facilities, it is freely sold over the counter by unscrupulous chemists.