By Asad Hashim
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan has banned advertisements for contraceptive products on television and radio over concern that they expose inquisitive children to the subject of sex, local media reported on Saturday.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) said it was acting in response to complaints from parents and its ban covered all contraceptive, birth control and family planning products.
"(The) general public is very much concerned (about) the exposure of such products to the innocent children, which get inquisitive on features (and) use of the products," it said in a statement.
The ban came despite a government initiative to encourage birth control in Pakistan, a conservative Muslim country of 190 million people where talking about sex in public is taboo.
It is unclear whether it will extend to the government's own family planning publicity efforts. Provincial population welfare departments regularly run campaigns to educate citizens on the benefits of various forms of birth control.
Advertisements for condoms and other forms of birth control are rare in Pakistan.
Contraceptive use in Pakistan is already low and fell by a further 7.2 percent last year, according to government statistics on the country's Couple Years of Protection (CYP), an internationally used metric for contraceptive use.
Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, with a population growth rate of 1.92 percent, according to the government. Its population is projected to increase to more than 227 million by 2025.
"Reduction in population growth is one of the top priorities of the government of Pakistan to maintain balance between country's resources and population," said the government's annual report on contraceptive use.
The lack of use of contraceptives may also have implications for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, which United Nations data show claimed over 2,800 lives in Pakistan last year.
Television channels and radio stations that do not comply with the ban will face "legal action under PEMRA laws", the statement said, although no specific punishment was mentioned.
PEMRA did not respond to a request for comment.
(Writing by Asad Hashim; Editing by Tom Heneghan)