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National commission for child protection demands Netflix take down Bombay Begums

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has demanded that Netflix take down the TV show Bombay Begums, according to one of the individuals whose complaint was cited in the notice. That show, the notice claimed, would “pollute the young minds of children”, and demanded that it be taken down within 24 hours. The notice cites scenes where a teenager goes through body image issues and does drugs in a party. The show is classified in India as 18+ (two years older than the show’s rating in countries like the US and France, where it is rated 16+). Netflix declined to comment, and has not taken the show down.

Priyank Kanoongo, the NCPCR’s chair, told MediaNama that this was irrelevant, and that “Bachchon ko galat tareeke se portray nahi kar sakte. Adult viewer ko bhi yeh nahi bata sakte ki woh bachchon ko drugs de sakte hain. Ki bachchon ko groom kar sakte hain for sexual purpose. [You can’t portray children in a wrong way. You can’t tell even adult viewers that they can give drugs to children. That you can groom children for sexual purposes.]” Kanoongo added that Netflix hadn’t replied to the commission yet.

The notice cited a complaint against the show’s content by a Twitter handle that is critical of what it sees as anti-Hindu narratives in Bollywood, and frequently calls the industry “Urduwood”. The notice was also a result of complaints by Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj, a documentary filmmaker and men’s rights activist, the handle said.

This comes as Netflix and other streaming services rush to comply with the newly notified Intermediary Rules, which require them to submit to a three-tier complaints redressal mechanism; Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar have postponed shows that they believe could get them into trouble at a time when the government is increasing its scrutiny on envelope-pushing content on streaming services. Hotstar would be making changes to the show before it’s out, Meera Chopra, one of the stars of the show, said on Twitter.

Netflix runs a disclaimer before Bombay Begums, saying “We do not intend to endorse, promote, encourage and support any statement, action or relationship displayed between the characters of this series.” Lawyer Karan Tripathi argued that Netflix was effectively distancing itself from two relationships in the show, one lesbian and one interfaith, with that disclaimer. “Still waiting for a day when our love will not be seen as a warning issued in public interest,” Tripathi said. In the US, Netflix has an LGBTQ category prominently selectable in its browse menu, something it doesn’t have in India.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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