A nine-year-old girl’s refusal to drink fruit juice because it was meant for “him” — and not her — has prompted government intervention to ensure gender neutrality in written contents on food or juice packets.
What upset the class 3 girl was the writing on a packet of juice sold under the brand name Real —“Something that is good for your child should also make him smile”.
Following a complaint by her father, Union minister of women and child development Maneka Gandhi took it up with the juice manufacturer, Dabur.
The company responded to the minister on Wednesday, saying the term “him” on the pack was not gender-specific but used in a more general sense to connote children. “We will make the necessary amendments to avoid any such misunderstanding in the future,” it promised.
The girl’s father, Mriganka Majumder, a banker, told Hindustan Times from Guwahati that he took up the issue as he was pained at the reaction of his daughter, his only child.
“Last Sunday, I bought a carton of Real fruit juice for my daughter. When we reached home, she came to me after a while and said she will not drink the juice as it is written in the carton that it is for ‘him’ not ‘her’,” he said.
She studies at a private school in Guwahati.
He then shot off a mail to Dabur, seeking an apology for what he termed as gender discrimination through their products.
Failing to get a response from the company, Majumder wrote to the Union minister, seeking her intervention.
Gandhi said she has taken up the issue with Dabur.
“I have written to them to ensure that messaging in their products, especially food and beverages is ‘gender neutral’. Why should products such as fruit juice or health drink be male-centric. It amounts to discrimination against the girl child and women,” she said.
In his letter to the WCD minister, Majumder said he is a proud father of a single girl and hopes that the company will show some respect to “our daughters”.
“I know it’s a small issue but the message that boys are getting more preference is disturbing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks of promoting Beti Bachao Beti Badhao and saving the girl child but the message gets diluted by such instances,” Majumder said.
He has also sought a public apology from the company.
For its part, Dabur clarified to the minister that it “always believed in gender neutral communication, be it on its product packs or with its advertisements”.
It said the Real fruit juice pack carries the picture of a family of four, including a girl child, and its advertisements also feature children of both genders, showing the brand’s gender-neutrality.