PEMRA, banning an ad on contraception makes no sense

Published: July 24, 2013

What is wrong with a contraception advertisement? Why is sex education or awareness considered taboo?

From banning websites over blasphemous content to the recent ban on the advertisement for contraception, Pakistan seems to be headed in the wrong direction. The problem at hand is not just the ban, but the authority that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has assumed – the power to ban anything.

As a citizen of this country, I have a few concerns.

Where exactly is democracy and our right to the freedom of speech?

Pemra is abusing its power here. They are banning content on the internet based on what they find inappropriate. However, this content may not actually be inappropriate but educational. Additionally, they can’t install filters to block ‘immoral’ and ‘blasphemous’ content but they are quick to filter out websites describing the plight of the Shia, Ahmadis and Baloch communities – why?

The state of our judicial system is laughable; convicted terrorists roam about free while the price of samosas and content on the internet is deliberated upon.

What is wrong with a contraception advertisement? Why is sex education or awareness considered taboo?

I find it hard to comprehend why there hasn’t been a massive outrage against websites being banned. This leads me to believe that a majority of the people do, in fact, agree with such bans and the insignificant amount (including myself) of internet users are restricted to using micro blogging websites like Facebook and Twitter.

In this day and age, where sex dominates major themes of popular soap operas and songs, why and how is talking about sex vulgar or wrong? It is not enough for us to just tell our children that they were not, in fact, brought into this world by storks. Some form of explanation is required and the implications of this ‘human activity’ have to be clarified.

Unfortunately, even the most elite schools in our country do not provide sex education to their students. So in essence, being a part of the global society and being exposed to social media and mass media talking about sex, the religious aspect of sex, the consequences and diseases that may accompany it, wouldn’t it benefit us if our children received some form of guidance to douse their curiosity? It is because of the absence of such measures that curiosity wins the battle and we see boys resort to porn and girls huddle up in small ‘all girls get-togethers’ as they try to pitch in their two cents acquired from the internet or biology books to put the pieces together and solve the puzzle.

Discussing the concept of sexual intercourse is the same as explaining the phenomenon of the menstruation cycle to girls of age. Both are inevitable and very ‘natural’.

What is interesting to note here is, that even the most educated or ‘modern’ families believe that talking about sex is vulgar or inappropriate. Some families even believe it is highly ‘un-lady like’. While I agree that having illegitimate sex carries social and religious restraints, however, talking about it in a serious environment, mentioning the religious and medical do’s and don’ts will only benefit us in the long run.

Having completed 14 years of education in Karachi, from a well reputed school, I cannot recall even one lecture given to us about sex or its consequences. Why? I don’t know. We had extra-curricular activities like aerobics etc and even a doctor who once enlightened us about the menstrual cycle but the topic of sex was never broached. The doctor went as far as explain to us the advantages of aerobics and how it helps during pregnancy but the questions of how that child appears in our body to begin with was conveniently ignored. Therefore, it is not because our schools lack the resources, it is simply because they think sex education is not as important of a module as aerobics!

Conclusively, how Pemra decided to ban the contraception ad is beyond me. A country with a swelling population, dying due to limited resources and appalling maternal facilities decides to ban a contraception ad in the month of Ramazan is itself a ‘vulgar’ act.

To impose a particular organisation’s description and definition of modesty on approximately 180 million people who could definitely make use of any information with regards to family planning is mind boggling. We often forget, vulgarity and modesty are relative concepts and what might be modest for one might not be modest for another. And every contraceptive advertisement has been set within the bounds of our society’s norms – the message, clothes and language – all have been taken into account appropriately.

So, should we do something about this or sit and wait for our population to increase? Do we expect Green Star to reach every inaccessible village? If we do – we need a reality check!

Are you for or against Pemra's decision to ban the Josh Condoms ad?

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Read more by Maheen here or follow her on Twitter @MaheenIshaikh 

Maheen Sheikh

Maheen Sheikh

Currently studying law at SOAS, University of London and aspiring to become an advocate. Maheen loves reading, writing and yoga. She participates in charity work on the weekends and tweets @MaheenIshaikh (twitter.com/MaheenIshaikh).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Abdul Moiz

    Sexual repression never works.Trying to demonize sex only encourages people to find escape elsewhere.This fear of people having sex and the lame attempts by the religious extremists and their allies in the government to ban ads will achieve nothing.Banning condom ads is detrimental,more the condom use,less the spread of STD’s.Recommend

  • Asad Soomro

    What Pakistan needs is more condom use,not less.Our population is increasing at a frightening pace which is placing a huge strain on our resources.It’s sad to see the govt. surrendering before the bullying of the religious fascists.Recommend

  • Shumaila Siddiqui

    Condom use needs to be promoted not restricted.There must be more use of contraceptives as its use prevents spread of diseases.There need to be more commercials for condoms on tv,not less.Recommend

  • Water Bottle

    “Where exactly is democracy and our right to the freedom of speech?”

    If you sincerely think about it, freedom of speech is not curtailed by democracy. Freedom of speech if curtailed by Islam.

    Anything that says, submit to me, no questions, is suppression of a lot of your freedom. In fact it starts with the curtailing of the freedom to think.Recommend

  • muslym

    Sex education is not given in schools, bloggers is more concerned about this fact rather pemra’s ban.Recommend

  • Yasir

    The author has taken the whole issue in a wrong way. It wasn’t banned only because it was an ad of condom but because of the way it was presenting condoms. The ad says that a pretty ordinary man can marry a top model like Mathira ( again a controversial personality ) by using condoms. It shows that he had sexual relationship with her that’s how he married her.
    The ad was banned because majority of people wanted it to be banned. Same is the case with other blocked content. PEMRA has taken decisions keeping national unity and national moral values in mind.
    The article is the result of inexperience and lack of background knowledge on the part of the author. I appreciate the use of words though and the way of expression is good. Peace. Recommend

  • vaqas

    (Repeat) ban pemra. Its a waste of taxpayers money to keep a bunch of fascists happy. Let us be free of hate and bigotry. Give the money to the security forces to rid us of the real disease, taliban. Say no to crazies, yes to josh!!Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Those who are saying that this ad was our only hope to control population, I think they haven’t seen the ad actually. There wasn’t a single word about birth control.. Just “josh condom” keeping Mathira happier than normal wives.
    Also, since when strawberry flavor started helping in birth control?Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    *A well thought topic and I agree with a few points highlighted by the author. But, the author did went off track by getting into too much discussion on sex education at schools.

    One should always remember that this is Islamic Republic of Pakistan and things have to be done in light of ground realities. Something exercised in the Western education system might not be practical to replicate it in our system.*Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    One of the key concerns among the public when advised contraception, is that it’ll make intercourse less pleasurable. This diminishes condom use, thus increasing STD transmissions and unwanted pregnancies.

    This ad, like just about all others of its kind, directly addresses this key concern. Condom use shouldn’t have to feel like a chore.

    And no, I don’t believe this ad was any more sexist than one depicting a woman beaming with joy when her husband brings her a can of (insert brand) cooking oil. It’s the same principle, except that sex automatically makes everything a thousand times more controversial.Recommend

  • Siddiqui

    there is a difference between education and vulgarity. this advertisement is totally vulgar. in past also there were many advertisements for family planning which were on aired and were accepted by all but they were not vulgar. this kind of advertisement in the month of ramazan and i also remember last year also same thing happened some add was on aired in ramazan with a song something. why is it these things come only in ramazan. plus for all those liberals, if you want to see anything on your television, ask your cable provider to switch on those channels which provide complete nudity. kindly dont try to super-impose your liberal views to all the pakistani population and keep the freedom of speech to your self. it is not freedom of speech. it is imposing your own thoughts on others. Recommend

  • Atif Salahuddin

    Sex education doesn’t solve the problem. Just look at countries like Britain and the US where they have record single mothers raising children by themselves, teenage pregnancies and the social dysfunction as a result of absent fathers despite all the sex education they have been doing for decades.

    The author effectively argues that with lack of sex education the Pakistani population won’t know what do in their bedrooms, leaving young girls and boys guessing yet at the same time tries to tell us that the population is running out of control; I think they know perfectly well what to and the author has to make up her mind about this instead of contradicting herself.

    This is a question of values and values which encourage free sex and promiscuity have only lead to more social problems in countries like Britain and the same would only happen in Pakistan on top of all the other problems we already have. The family unit is the last thing many Pakistanis have, destroy that and then we are truly finished.Recommend

  • Mazher

    The awareness is not taboo. Remember there used to Green Star ads, no one objected on that because they were subtle and not so open. Even with condoms, they used to name them either Saathi or Hamdard, again subtle but giving message and the purpose of commercial was served.

    Here in the josh condoms ad. They had gone overboard. First they hired a notorious model for the ad and secondly they used vulgar words. And the way the commercial was made, it was clear that they didn’t mean to avoid birth control. What flavour condoms have to do with birth control?Recommend

  • Maria

    @ awais khan i beg to differ with your point of view about sex education not appropriate for islamic republic of pakistan. If you have read quran in a language that you really understand then Quran itself speaks of hows and whys of sex. So your point is beyond my comprehension. Moreover the more unapproachable you make something the more curious people get about it and they end up being getting exploited. I think the writer wrote well and using this ban as a stepping stone she advocated the importance of sex education. Recommend

  • Nandita.

    @Faraz Talat:

    Brilliant comment. Recommend

  • Shah (Berlin)

    @Atif Salahuddin:

    nice summary…well put…!!!Recommend

  • Ameer Akhund

    Dear Blogger, it would be pertinent if you read through the statement of PEMRA authorities for clarification of your thoughts. I think you are too young to develop an unbiased and transparent analytical ability. I am amongst an all time critic of PEMRA and a big supporter of population control and sex education but the theme of this specific add is pretty absurd. It presents the notion that with JOSH condoms you can even buy the heart of your wife who is far more good looking and superior then you, meaning thereby its the ecstasy of the condoms for which your lady is so happy to you.The ad not at all advocates anything related to birth control or contraceptives. And in the end, to my horror it talks about the strawberry flavor too. How can we sit with our children and elders to watch such a thing….Recommend

  • Rockzela

    Majority of the people in Pakistan support this ban from PEMRA, so lets just agree with the majority and chill people. btw I support PEMRA because it has shown its powers finally.Recommend

  • SMA

    I read the first paragraph and then didnt bother reading the rest.

    ‘However, this content may not actually be inappropriate but educational’.
    Educational? Really? There are better ways of educating than have been brought across in the ad. Its an ad made in bad taste, and no where is there any educational message on family planning, preventing STDs etc. It purely focuses on the pleasure derived from sex. I am sorry but that is not the message we need to convey to our society. We live in the east, please lets preserve some of our cultural and religious values.

    I for one, would be very embarrassed if that ad came in while im watching tv with my father and brother. And I happen to be a fairly liberal independant woman.Recommend

  • Saim

    The issue here is not for or against population control or contraceptives, the issue is presentation of a product. And as is being said, the add is vulgur and shameless and should not be brought into lounges of millions of decent and modest people where sisters, dughters and mothers sit along with sons, brothers and fathers. There are decent and better ways of spreading a message if at all. Even in west many condom adds have been banned due to immoral presentation. The message of population control have been passed on in decent ways in past like ‘sabz sitara’ commercial and documentries and dramas like ‘janjal pura’ and no significant outrage was reported against those.

    These b0olgs are void of any sensible argument and are just tit for tat type of reaction and have achived their own purpose i.e. getting published and commented. Recommend

  • FunnyGuy

    May be author is against family planning.Recommend

  • Asad777

    Come on have some sunshine writer.Sex education and this Josh ad on tv are two very different things with different repercussions.Its shows awayness of our young writers from our delicate social fabric so called english meduimaaayyy…wasted 4 mins..:/Recommend

  • Tamoor

    @Maheen Sheikh Do u refer any book regarding sex education ?I mean what is actually sex education?Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    @Maria: Is it possible to give sex education to students in rural like rural Punjab, KP, FATA and Balochistan? Its mostly the people from these areas who needs to be taught about sex education inorder to avoid population explosion but as I mentioned in my previous comment the ground reality and dynamics are different. Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    @SMA: your comment is spot on!!!Recommend

  • Tamoor R

    @Maheen Sheikh What is sex education actually plz describe it ? Do u reffer any book ?
    Do u reffer any book regarding subject of sex education u wanna in schools ?Recommend

  • Ahmed Shah

    AND it had a strawberry flavored one too :DRecommend

  • Javed Khan

    Finally an Ad about a product that can help Pakistan and the geniuses ban it and Islamo-fascist brigade supports the ban. Do people not have sex during Ramadan or Pakistan just has a tremendous amount of Immaculate conception since the birth rate doesn’t seem to abate any time during the year. Our non-progressive thinking has no bounds and jahalat is somehow taken as a badge of religious piousness. Race to the bottom of jahalat is what we’re pursuing as a nation and the intelligent and educated are containing to scratch their heads and lose hair and Josh. Recommend

  • Muhammad

    Nobody is against contraception ads being aired on television. But they should be educational, not vulgar. This ad was rightly banned. Refer to Peer’s blog.Recommend

  • Tahir Chaudhry

    @Yasir:

    Okay, so now you are a spokesperson for PEMRA. Yeah IT IS VERY OBVIOUS that how much “national unity” is at threat by an ad on condoms in which “some controversial people” appeared. Hooooo, one can sense “national unity” in real danger.

    And if the writer has taken the issue in a “wrong way”, then go ahead and suggest your version of the “right way”. You seem no different than others, trying so hard to be politically correct. And frankly, how can you judge if someone is a “controversial personality”? I see it’s simply the chattering mind of a person that is controversial. I don’t think anyone has any right to judge someone else.

    Similarly, whatever the writer has written here is plainly comprehensible as well.

    And lastly, your conclusion is that the article is a result of “inexperience and lack of background knowledge”. But wait, where’s your version of the “right way”?Recommend

  • Ussama

    Banning a gross ad DOES make sense! Why does everyone in Pakistan so fond of comparing apples with oranges? Why couldn’t the marketing geniuses suggest an appropriate ad to sell this cheap contraceptive? Im not against educationg people about safe sex, contraceptives etc but just stop imitating Indians, pretty PLEASE! We are a bunch of followers, we prove time and again we lack creativity and decency as well. Coming back to the author, did you for once felt uneasy watching the same ad with your parents around? Can’t say much if you didn’t.Recommend

  • Tipu

    Apart from the discussion whether these types of commercials should see a ban in Pakistan or not, the problem with this particular ad is the way it was made. The message should be that using such a stuff provides one with a protection from STDs rather showing that it is a means for extra pleasure that leads to the satisfaction hence good relations with your partner. This is shear stupidity and one can expect it if Mathira is there.Recommend

  • Tahir Chaudhry

    @Atif Salahuddin:

    Haha, I see that was quite a ridiculous thing I read. Okay, so electricity has not solved our problems, what to do now? Ban electricity?

    And by the way, that is exactly our attitude. We have banned youtube. I don’t think it’s gonna be such a surprise if we ban the internet. As if that’s gonna solve our problems.

    And why are you concerned with the problems of USA and UK when we have our own? That’s not so called for (pun intended).

    We need to change our, individual as well as collective, attitude if we want to solve the problems. Let us stop living in delusions.

    And I think you need to educate yourself first on what is a sex education. You seem to get scared just because the word “sex” is attached with “education”. The writer is certainly not in any contradiction, she is quite clear on whatever she has communicated.

    But I see your remaining comment is quite full of contradictions.Recommend

  • Ammar Zaheer

    @Maria:
    Very well said, but your statement about what is in Quran is exactly the thing that no one supporting this blog understands (by the way I have to dis-agree, the blogger has strayed from the topic mentioned lol). Quran discusses these topics in such a beautiful way that it can never be considered vulgar. If sex education can be imparted in the way the Quran does it then there are no concerns. When its done as depicted in the ad, then I am concerned.

    And another important point, do the bloggers supporting this really think that the ad would be viewed for its message by the rural audience?Recommend

  • Kaalchakra

    I had heard that Yoga destroys human mind. Here is our confirmation. Recommend

  • GhostRider

    @Water Bottle:
    Dude why bring religion in a social discussion. On a contrary note women should be educated about harmful effects of marriage because in our neighborhood they ll get burnt alive if the husband dies. Dont you see the problem of forceful submission. (Sincerely)Recommend

  • stereotyped

    Girls also do watch porn ! They are not angels or saints ! Sick n tired of guys being portrayed as the bad ones all the time.Recommend

  • Ansari

    The heading of this blog totally diverse people from actual reality ” PEMRA, banning an ad on contraception makes no sense” in actual PEMRA does not ban this ad because it contain message of contraception, in fact it does not have even single message on contraception. I consider it a failed way of promoting a product in way which is not accepted at least in our society. I totally disagree with author as she depict that these kind on stuff can give sex education but it rather promoting only sex. Recommend

  • zafar

    Writer is very much concerned about sex education. she must initiate it by opening a school where she can teach this (A virtual school/ website). As according to her our most important need is sex education. you are saying that our population is increasing in a dangerous count which states that we are educated enough in this aspect of life. In case of increasing numbers its better to create resources than aborting childRecommend

  • Fahad Hafeez

    Check out the vote results , can you see how many people are with PEMRA on this , this is a lost cause ! its stupid !

    Good writeup by the author. Recommend

  • angry citizen

    Do we ever think that what we are upto? Are we the most pious nation on this earth who is doing everything as per the religious teaching? Why only SEX is considered tabood and illegal topic to discuss in our society? Why do not we critisize the existing bribery system, declining education system, worse law and order situation, factor of dishonesty among common men, increasing inflation, bad infrastructure of the city etc etc.

    More than 50% of this nation (including males and females) log-on to porn sites on regular basis but we cant afford to see just an add !!!!. Arent we hypocrite in nature then???Recommend

  • asad

    this article is a lost cause..Recommend

  • http://lahroe Virgin

    “Both are inevitable and very ‘natural’”
    Inevitable and natural?! What are you talking about? I am 28, haven’t experienced anything even remotely close to this inevitable and natural ‘human activity’! Explains the frustration in the society. Recommend

  • Mustafa

    I absolutely agree with Saim.

    There is a fine line between educating people on sex and being uncouth while doing so. The message was clearly otherwise since it seemed more like a sex promotion ad than an educational one.

    PEMRA did well in deciphering the real message of the ad which was clearly not on sex education but on sex promotion.

    Rest may be left to our best judgementsRecommend

  • Supporter

    Shocked and sad to see Muslims talking about encouraging the use of condoms knowing that the use of condom is HARAM!Recommend

  • Bilal

    very well written! but mainly the fact which i believe made the ad ban was Mathira her presence just made the entire ad dirty because of her history.Recommend

  • Saad

    To Writer and Everyone who is in favor of promoting these kind of ads:

    Where is Haya? Shame? We used to watch television with our parents without any vulgar content.

    and now we have ads like Always – ” Ammi Sab jaanti hain” and these Rubbish condom ads.

    If we move forward with the same pace, we will be educating people on ” How to perform Sex ” Live on televisions.

    and then our liberal and secular society will be against ban of such things.

    “Allah Hum Sab ko Hidayat day” – AameenRecommend

  • Shah (Berlin)

    Dear Blogger,

    freedom of speech has a it own limit as well. Even in West freedom of speech doesnt mean say wht ever you want to ..Offcourse there is a difference in the culture which changes the defination.

    In any case showing a vulgar ad and defending it in the name of freedom is not wht our society or culture wants…..

    Sex education and another topic and should be given. But I am sorry this ad is not fulfilling the requirements…!!!!!Recommend

  • Maverick

    Has the writer even seen the ad??? What part of it was educational exactly?? Please elaborate on that too. We are not against sex education, but the way it was portrayed. How is a guy marrying a model due to condoms educational?? And what will be its repurcussions when illiterate people and children watch it, as I’m sure literate people know what condom is and for what purpose it is used. Please watch the ad again; Im sure the writer is not naive enough to read between the lines! Recommend

  • Tahir Chaudhry

    @Shah (Berlin):

    First off, on what parameters you are comparing the freedom of speech that prevails in West to that of ours (in the EAST)? I think you have been deluded quite a lot, if they don’t say anything or stay silent then it’s not due to some oppression, but it’s rather the acceptance of their freedom of speech which has matured quite a lot in the past decades.

    And I feel quite alien when you said the ad was quite vulgar, that is quite far-fetched from the reality on another level. May be it was “vulgar” in “some” chattering minds, hmm?

    All I’m saying let us stop living in delusions. For decades we have plagued our minds with these judgments. Let the ad stay an AD. Let it BE simply.Recommend

  • Omair

    Another liberal wanting to impose his/her own view on the rest of Pakistan. The argument made by the author is totally rubbish; I was shocked when I saw the add and I myself launched an online complain to Pemra against the advertisement.
    Every society has its own social fabric, its own boundaries. What might not seem vulgar to you does seem vulgar to the majority of Pakistan. Anyhow not really bothered about the article but please choose another country for you economic policy making career. We do not need anymore of you guys. Thank you !Recommend

  • gujranwala789

    This blogger and all the people who have problems with pakistan’s moral values and sense of decency should simply pack up and leave this country. There is no need to have you in this country. At a time when pakistani government and society is fighting agianst ultra right wing insurgency such vulgar and immoral advertisements coming out the mind of a specific ethnic group of karachi ( where this ad industry is centred at the moment) is just fueling the unrest in the society and destroying the balance of different ideologies in the country. The advertisement as well as media industry should be representative of the cultural ethos of the people living in all four provinces of pakistan. Recommend

  • M Bilal Afzal

    Madam… this particular add is vulgar… its not educational.. I hope you understand the difference. We are a confused nation of self proclaimed enlightened heroes and champions…we are actually lost!Recommend

  • Nemah

    It’s not about banning an advertisement on contraception. It’s about banning vulgar content from the electronic media which should operate with certain moral standards!
    There have ads on contraception before to which no one objected but this one was plain cheap.Recommend

  • http://Germany goggi (Lahore)

    Hypocrisy is an essential feature of the Pakistani sexual morality.

    Recommend

  • binger

    Condom is the best thing that is ever invented by human Recommend

  • Parvez

    Most of our people are sick in the head, they don’t see the add for what it is, a bad sales pitch for a condom – nothing more. The word sex in neon pink immediately flashes in front of their eyes and the hypocrisy gear is quickly engaged and all moderate reasoning is chucked out the window.
    Recommend

  • Nasir

    @Water Bottle:

    What a Nonsense! Islam means peace and submitting to God / Allah is when you are at peace.

    Problem is when pseudo intellectuals pointlessly defame Islam because of either their misunderstanding of Islam or prejudice that’s when you get a society such as in Pakistan.

    Freedom of Speech is given in Islam and freedom of speech doesn’t mean that one should cross boundaries. Contraception is not against Islamic teachings but again the pseudo intellectuals or those who claim to be the “thekedars” of Islam definitely will ban such ads!

    So stop blaming an innocent religion of IslamRecommend

  • Omair

    Shame on express tribune for not posting my comments.Recommend

  • Adil

    After reading this article I found out what a role of a demon is … the thing which immortal , inappropriate and disgusting is to present it in a way that many perplexed people might take it as right.

    Recommend

  • Hassan

    @Siddiqui:

    The contraception rate (CPR) in Pakistan is one of the lowest in Asia (even below that Iraq or Iran and has remained withouth change for the last 10 years.

    Therefore, all the “classical” effort to promote birth planning have failled. A new approach is necessary.Recommend

  • Hassan

    @Yasir:

    Your counting is wrong too. More than 50% of the comments on this and another forums are in favour of the ad…. just count them and you will see that the “majority” is not as clear as you state,Recommend

  • RASHID MIR

    Where is your democracy………You know…most of people dont want this add on tv…So as per democracy…these adds should not be on tv.Recommend

  • MarahaK

    @Saad:
    Menstruation, pregnancy and sex are all very natural processes in the life of a woman. Its people like you who make these things a taboo and encourage menstrual-shaming among women. Theres nothing wrong with people knowing about htese things and discussing them openly.Recommend

  • Nobody

    @Awais Khan:
    With respect to your comment, last time I checked sex worked the same everywhere. Religion, culture, nationality, etc has no bearing on the science of it and THAT is what needs to be taught to children in school. As far as cultural and/or religious points of view, that is best left up to parents/guardians and the like. Teachers are there to teach and that’s what they ought to do. Cheers. Recommend

  • Mishrab

    @ Maheen Shaikh….May kindly start this Sex Education from your home to set an example and let this nation be update …..Recommend