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Undoing Sexism, One Ad At a Time: UK Watchdog Bans Gender-stereotyping Advertisements

Under the new rules set to come into force from June next year, British companies will no longer be able to create promotions that depict men and women engaged in gender-stereotypical activities.

PTI

Updated:December 14, 2018, 9:15 PM IST
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Undoing Sexism, One Ad At a Time:  UK Watchdog Bans Gender-stereotyping Advertisements
Representative image (Reuters)

London: The UK's advertising watchdog announced plans Friday to ban sexist advertisements that have the potential of reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) said unhelpful stereotyping in adverts, such as men shown as struggling with certain tasks like changing nappies and women shown as in charge of household cleaning "contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society", and can hold some people back.

Under the new rules set to come into force from June next year, British companies will no longer be able to create promotions that depict men and women engaged in gender-stereotypical activities. The ban will cover men struggling with household chores or girls being shown as less academic than boys.

Members of the public will be able to report adverts to the regulator if they feel they breach the new code.

"We don't see ourselves as social engineers, we're reflecting the changing standards in society," said Ella Smillie of the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which helped devise the new rules.

"Changing ad regulation isn't going to end gender inequality but we know advertising can reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, which can limit people's choices or potential in life," she said.

The ASA stressed that there is nothing in the new guidance to suggest that adverts cannot feature people carrying out gender-typical roles.

The issue would be if in that depiction it suggested that it is the only option available to that gender and never carried out by someone of another gender.

The changes follow a review of gender stereotyping in adverts by the ASA, the organisation that administers Britain's Advertising Codes, which are written by the Committee of Advertising Practice. The review found that "harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults" and that these stereotypes can be "reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes".

Shahriar Coupal, Director of the Committee of Advertising Practice, said, "Harmful gender stereotypes have no place in UK advertisements. Nearly all advertisers know this, but for those that don't, our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society".

The group will carry out a 12-month review after the new rule comes into force to ensure it is meeting its objective to prevent harmful gender stereotypes.

The new rule in the Advertising Codes, which will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media including online and social media, states that advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to "cause harm, or serious or widespread offence".

The ASA operates a system of self-regulation and all major advertisers in the country are signed up to its code of practice.

Examples of adverts that will be banned include those that belittle men for carrying out stereotypically "female" roles or tasks, those that emphasise the contrast between a boy's stereotypical personality and a girl's, and adverts aimed at new mothers that suggest that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority for their emotional well-being.

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