Breast cancer awareness makes Thane civic body see red

The Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) has denied permission to well-known breast cancer awareness activist Devieka Bhojwani’s foundation, Women’s Cancer Initiative, to put up hoardings raising awareness about breast cancer in Thane.

The advertisement near Mahalaxmi Temple in S Mumbai
Getting attention: The hoarding near Mahalaxmi Temple in South Mumbai. Women’s Cancer Initiative says it is eye-catching, but TMC says they must find a better way to draw attention to the cause Pic/Satyajit Desai

The hoardings, put up in South Mumbai near Jaslok Hospital, opposite Cadbury House at Mahalaxmi and at Chowpatty show celebrity Mandira Bedi holding a bra and urging women to become aware of breast cancer.

The walk was a Women's Cancer Initiative
The awareness march: Devieka Bhojwani (l) walked for breast cancer awareness in Pune recently. Joining her was Chak De India! actor Sagarika Ghatge

Says an angry Bhojwani, “The TMC refused permission for the advertisements on the grounds that the model (in this case Mandira Bedi, who is the face of the breast cancer awareness campaign) was holding up a bra. I was told that it is not proper to show a bra in the advertisement.”

Tata Memorial Hospital
The emperor of maladies: Dr. Vikram Maiya, radiation oncologist, Dr Vani Parmar, Onco Surgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mona Gandhi, breast cancer survivor still undergoing radiation therapy and Devieka S Bhojwani, vice-president, Women's Cancer Initiative-Tata Memorial Hospital at a panel discussion at the first Indian Breast Cancer Survivors Conference in Pune

Says TMC’s Manisha Pradhan, Pollution Control Officer, “The visuals (pictures) running with the advertisement are improper. We cannot have a bra being shown. If the pictures are replaced and socially proper pictures are used, we will allow the hoardings to be put up. Then, there is no problem.” Pradhan has sent a crisp letter to the hoarding site owner: M/S Enkon. Her letter on behalf of the TMC states: (we reproduce the letter verbatim)

M/s. Enkon Pvt.Ltd.
Sub:- Breast Cancer Awareness.
Ref: Your Letter dt. 11th Oct., 2012
This is with reference to above mention advertisement is not socially proper. Hence you are not permitted to run it on LED as Social Message.

Pradhan adds, “We are fully aware of the importance of spreading awareness about breast cancer. It is not that the TMC has anything against the cause. We realise it is a vital one, but we cannot have an advertisement in which a bra is shown.”

The advertisements that show Mandira Bedi holding a bra

Bhojwani adds, “I cannot understand this. We have lingerie advertisements all across showing women in bras. In some, women are spilling out of the bras. But, today, we cannot have this tastefully done advertisement. The aim was to capture attention for the cause. Lowe Lintas, the advertising agency, which did these creatives is a world-renowned agency. A lot of thought has gone behind this campaign. Everywhere across the world, when one looks at breast cancer awareness advertising, the ads do depict a bra. It’s ridiculous that they (the TMC) are not able to get the message or purpose of the campaign, which is for women to be reminded to get themselves screened given the rising cases of breast cancer in India.”

Meanwhile, Dr Rajendra Badwe, director Tata Memorial Hospital says that, “This is a personal opinion and I cannot comment directly on that. I just hope the TMC and other civic bodies disseminate more awareness about early breast cancer detection so that I don’t see very late cases like I am seeing now. Today, in Mumbai nearly 30 to 40 per cent women come in late for breast cancer treatment and there is no curative treatment then. In India, it is as high as 70 per cent. So, we need more awareness.”

Dr Sudeep Gupta, Professor of Medical Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital and General Secretary of the Women’s Cancer Initiative says, “If the TMC thinks it is improper, then that is a subjective opinion and each one is entitled to an opinion. For me, these are not titillating, indecent or obscene advertisements. They espouse a socially relevant message and one has to see the context in which they are made. Awareness is all as cancer is such a formidable foe.”

Bhojwani ends, “My initiative has been working towards awareness for 10 years. I am a breast cancer survivor myself. Only awareness can reinforce the message that early detection of breast cancer is fully curable.”

Quick facts
>> October is traditionally breast cancer awareness month.
>> The Pink Ribbon is a symbol of breast cancer.
>> Mumbai has seen a slew of initiatives this month. The Bandra Worli Sea Link (BWSL) was illuminated in pink recently. On Monday evening, Jaslok Hospital on Peddar Road also took on a pink hue.
>> A number of celebrities, global and local, have lent their support for the cause.
>> Former tennis ace Martina Navratilova is a breast cancer survivor. When she was detected with breast cancer Martina had said it was her “personal 9/11”.  

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