• A kissing scene was edited out of a new Coca Cola “Taste the feeling” advert in Kenya following complaints it was unsuitable for family viewing. An edited version started running on Wednesday evening in Kenya after discussions between the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) and the management of Coca Cola Central, East and West Africa.

    Zipporah Maubane, Head of Communications for Coca Cola Southern Africa in an emailed statement to the Telegraph confirmed the development, “Following a recent request from the Kenya Film Classification Board, we have made a minor revision to one of the TV advertisements and a new version will air from this evening (Wednesday).” She added that the company was committed to marketing in line with local guidelines and consumer values. The advert is part of the new Coca Cola campaign, Taste the Feeling which in the company’s traditional fashion tries to use normal “everyday moments”. The advert that has been a cause for much debate in Kenya shows a young couple having a coke and kissing in a library which the KFCB found objectionable.

    This is not the first time the KFCB has restricted or even banned visual media for being explicit. In January, the KFCB Chairman said since Netflix was operating in Kenya, it had to be subjected to the same regulations that govern conventional visual media as it could open a “floodgate for extremist and radicalising content”. Last year, the KFCB had restricted the viewing and distribution of the film Fifty Shades of Grey objecting to its “prolonged and explicit sexual scenes depicting women as sexual slaves”. Bishop Jackson Kosgei, chairman of the Board said, “Besides being a film which is sexually loaded in tone, visual effects and sound, the film is one among many films which is slowly but steadfastly desensitising viewers into embracing pornography, which is illegal in Kenya.” Kenya was not alone in banning the film. Nigeria banned it after it had been screened in major cinemas in its first week while Zimbabwe ordered heavy editing of the film.

    The question is, why is Africa so shy? Most African countries have a level of conservative behaviour that puts the Amish to shame. Intimacy has been defined as private business in the age-old social dictionary and it belongs in the bedrooms where it is spoken of in hushed voices. Fathers do not kiss mothers in front of their children and naturally, they go ballistic if the boy and girl in the Coca Cola advert start kissing. What are they teaching their children? In Zimbabwean society, the story goes to even crazier extents. Young kids are convinced hospitals sell babies and their new siblings are just the latest acquisitions from the last shopping trip. Sex and behaviour that celebrates sexuality are taboo. Imagine a parent who convinced a child that children are bought having to explain why the boy and girl on the television’s mouths are touching.

    One wonders where this conservative behaviour emanates; from African culture or Christianity? Or maybe it is an amalgam of the two? For starters, the chairperson of KFCB is a Bishop and that is a telling sign. African society used to open up about sex in the initiation rituals. These were only done for young people of a certain age, thus putting an age restriction on sexuality just as modern society does. Sadly, in spite of this hush hush phenomenon surrounding sex, Africa still has the highest number of HIV infected people. Sub-Saharan Africa had 25.8 million people living with HIV in 2014. The region also accounts for almost 70% of new infections. The silence is therefore not really working and the censorship is equally ineffective. The knowledge the Censorship Boards want to cut access to is already part of the public domain. Though this is now the fact of society, it is not to say countries should not take measures against unnecessarily indecent exposure to the young. The Coca Cola advert did not need to have that kiss and the Kenyan Board was right in censoring it. What do kisses have to do with buying a carbonated drink?

    The question that still remains is that of countries banning movies that are meant for adult audiences who feel they should be allowed to exercise discretion. The young are not exposed to a screening of Fifty Shades of Grey so what is the point of depriving adults who have different belief systems? One may say to protect societal values but are these more superior to freedom of choice? A problem arises when countries respect those freedoms. Mohammad Hossain(s) who rape and claim they were re-enacting scenes from “Fifty Shades of Grey” are then born. The Censorship Boards in Africa are therefore stuck between a rock and a hard place. In the meantime, adverts that unnecessarily sexualise family television should continue to be banned. The more private screenings of adult movies are a moot point.

    Image Credit: Coca Cola