Domestic Workers’ Org Calls for Boycott of Kent Over ‘Classist’ Ad

Actor Hema Malini issued a statement calling the views expressed in the ad ‘inappropriate’.

Updated
Coronavirus
3 min read
Netizens have erupted in furore calling Kent’s advertisement ‘sick’ and ‘repulsive’ and ‘classist’, over the implication that domestic workers could have COVID-19 in their latest advertisement for a product, that has since been removed from Twitter.
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An advertisement campaign by Kent RO Systems for one of their products, a bread and dough maker, stoked controversy after netizens pointed out it was discriminatory towards domestic workers, by implying that they could be infected with COVID-19.

The Sree Jagruti Samiti, an organisation working for the rights of domestic workers in Karnataka has called for the boycott of all Kent products and action by the Advertising Standards Council, claiming that the ad was supporting ‘prejudice’ and the idea of domestic workers as ‘unhygienic’.

In a series of images part of the post on Instagram, the ad first asks ‘Are you allowing your maid to knead your atta dough by hand’ and then says ‘her hands may be infected’, stating customers should not ‘compromise on health and purity’.

Veteran Bollywood actor Hema Malini, who has been appearing in Kent RO advertisements for years now, issued a statement calling the views expressed in the ad ‘inappropriate’.

While screenshots of the ad were shared thousands of times on social media, Kent appears to have removed the ad from their Instagram handle, where it first appeared.

Less than 2 weeks ago, domestic workers in Bengaluru had protested against being excluded from government relief schemes, demanding minimum wage for 3 months.

Kent RO has since tweeted out an apology over the ad calling it ‘unintentional and badly communicated’.

‘Advertising Council Must Force and Punish the Company for the Putrefying Ad’

Stating that the company was endorsed by ‘Hema Malini and Brahmanical purity’, the union called for the boycott of all products.

“Shamelessly endorsed by Hema Malini and Brahmanical purity!!! The Advertising council must force and punish the company, for the putrefying ad ...on how Kent products to be bought, to save oneself from the unhygienic domestic workers' hands! Call upon all human beings to boycott Kent products, withdrawal of ad immediately,” read a statement by Geeta Menon, head of the organisation.

She further noted how domestic workers were already subject to prejudice and discriminatory treatment since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, resulting in loss of employment and unpaid dues.

“In these times of vulnerability and safety of all, discrimination, prejudice, caste and communal are in the DNA of some of the privileged classes and companies We see it from homes, to relief work, to factories, to schools, to even hotels. Our union survey conversations reveal that the impact of COVID-19 has been tremendous! 80% of domestic workers told not to come, effectively keeping them out of work, out of reach for two months! 70% not paid April salaries, 50% of those above 50 years dismissed arbitrarily!!! Many employers have cited hygiene, bringing the virus, etc (sic)” read the statement.

‘Purify Yourself’: Twitterati Calls Ad ‘Sick’, ‘Classist’

Following the screenshots of the now-deleted ad emerging on social media, Twitter was abuzz with criticism of the ‘insensitive ad’. TM Krishna, Faye D’souza and others were some of those who expressed anger over the ad.

Advertising Standards Council of India Says Can’t Act on Removed Ad

After first acknowledging the complaints received regarding the ad, the Twitter handle of the Council later said that since the post had been removed, there was nothing they could do.

While the post has been deleted from Instagram, users have commented on other posts of Kent, asking the company to apologise.

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