Dabur Pulls Down Same-Sex Karwa Chauth Ad After Online Abuse, Threats from BJP Leaders

The advertisement shows a same-sex couple preparing for their first Kawa Chauth.

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New Delhi: After Fabindia, it was the turn of consumer goods giant Dabur India to withdraw its Fem Fairness Cream advertisement in circulation, released to mark Hindu festival Karwa Chauth, following online abuse and open threats from BJP leaders, including from the Madhya Pradesh home minister.

Released on October 22, the advertisement shows a same-sex couple preparing for their first Karwa Chauth, which, according to Hindutva supporters, “hurt their sentiments” by demeaning the Hindu conception of marriage.

Announcing its decision to withdraw the ad, Dabur India said, “Fem’s Karwa Chauth campaign has been withdrawn from social media handles and we unconditionally apologise for unintentionally hurting people’s sentiments.”

The decision to withdraw Dabur’s Fem ad came after the Madhya Pradesh home minister, Narrottam Mishra, threatened the company with legal action. Slamming Dabur for making an ad about “lesbians celebrating Karwa Chauth”, he had said, “In future, they will show two men taking feras (marrying each other according to Hindu rituals).”

Also read: The BJP Has Turned Diwali Into a Festival of Hate

He had also ordered police to ensure that the company withdrew the ad, failing which, he had said, he would initiate legal action.

In fact, Mishra’s comments against Dabur come close after he had defended violence unleashed by Hindu fundamentalist groups on the set of a web series being directed by Prakash Jha and starring Bobby Deol.

Mixed reactions 

Dabur’s Fem commercial begins with two women facing each other, while one applies bleach on the other’s face. They discuss the importance of the Karwa Chauth festival, and why they fast for their partners.

Towards the end of the commercial, it is revealed that both of them have fasted for the day and are now spotting the moon. They look at each other’s faces through the ritualistic sieve, a custom observed during the breaking of the fast.

The advertisement concludes with the logo of the Dabur-owned beauty brand Fem depicted in rainbow colours with the hashtag ‘Glow with Pride’. The rainbow flag here symbolically represents the LGBTQIA+ social movement.

It is not just those on the Right who have been critical of the advertisement, but even progressive voices have slammed the company for releasing an ad that essentially furthers patriarchal, casteist and racist notions. They said that adding an “LGBTQI angle” would not change that, and called the advertisement “conceptually flawed”.

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This is not the first time that advertisements have been withdrawn by popular brands for allegedly hurting “Hindu sentiments”. Just a week ago, Fabindia had to withdraw its ad after BJP MP Tejasvi Surya objected to the clothing brand’s description of its Diwali collection as JashneRiwaaz. Surya had objected to using an Urdu phrase for a Hindu festival, terming it as an attempt towards “Abrahimisation of Hindu faith”.

Similarly, Manyavar clothing brand and jewellery giant Tanishq was targeted earlier by the right-wing supporters for allegedly “hurting Hindu sentiments”. Incidentally, all these brands are from India, giving thrust to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Made in India’ campaign.