Dabur: Indian brand ‘unconditionally apologises’ for ad featuring same-sex couple in Hindu ritual after backlash

This is the second time in a week when a brand pulled its ad campaign after facing right-wing backlash

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Tuesday 26 October 2021 11:55 BST
Indian minister threatens legal action against ad featuring same-sex couple

Indian consumer goods manufacturer Dabur has withdrawn an advertisement featuring a same-sex couple celebrating a Hindu festival after facing backlash from hardline Hindu groups.

The advertisement for the company’s beauty brand Fem showed two women on a rooftop performing the rituals of “Karwa Chauth,” indicating they are in a domestic relationship with each other.

Karwa Chauth is primarily a northern Indian Hindu festival during which women fast for the long life of their husband and consume food and water only after the sighting of the moon through a seive.

Critics of the tradition have deemed it to be steeped in patriarchal values, while moderate Hindus have attempted to reverse roles in recent times and have husbands fast for their wives instead.

Narottam Mishra, home minister of India’s Madhya Pradesh state, however, lashed out at the brand on Monday and claimed advertisements like Dabur’s selectively “targeted” festivals related to the Hindu religion.

Mr Mishra is a legislator of India’s ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and is known for his conservative views.

“Today, they showed a lesbian breaking the fast for Karwa Chauth, looking at her partner through the sieve. Tomorrow, they will show two boys going around the fire taking vows and getting married. This is objectionable,” he said.

The Madhya Pradesh minister said in a tweet in Hindi that he had directed the highest-ranking state police officer to launch an investigation into the advertisement and also threatened legal action against Dabur if the company failed to withdraw the advertisement.

“With respect to the seriousness of the matter, I have directed the DGP [Director General of Police] to launch a proper investigation,” he said in the tweet.

Following the backlash, Dabur issued an “unconditional apology” for “unintentionally hurting people's sentiments” and deleted the advertisement from their social media accounts.

“We understand that not everyone will agree with our stance, and we respect their right to hold a different point of view. Our intention is not to offend any beliefs, customs and traditions, religious or otherwise,” the company said in a statement.

Homosexuality in India was decriminalised in 2018, but same-sex marriages are still prohibited in the country.

This is the second incident in a week when a popular brand had to cut short an advertisement campaign after facing flak from the country’s right-wing groups.

Last week, clothing brand Fabindia was forced to delete a tweet about a new festive collection after political leaders from the BJP objected to the use of an Urdu phrase to describe a Hindu festival.

The brand called a new clothing line it advertised for Diwali – one of the biggest festivals celebrated by Hindus – “Jashn-e-Riwaaz”, which translates to the celebration of customs or traditions.

Right-leaning social media users, however, accused the brand of appropriating the festival and hurting Hindu religious sentiments.

In yet another incident last week, another BJP lawmaker took exception to an advertisement from tyre-manufacturer CEAT that featured Bollywood actor Aamir Khan.

The advertisement discouraged people from bursting crackers on the roads.

Anantkumar Hegde, in a letter to the company’s chief executive Anant Vardhan Goenka, wrote that the advertisement “created an unrest among the Hindus.”

“Nowadays, a group of anti-Hindu actors always hurt the Hindu sentiments whereas they never try to expose the wrongdoings of their community... I hope in future your organisation will respect the Hindu sentiment and will not hurt it directly or indirectly by any means,” the lawmaker wrote.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in