New rules prohibiting the sexualisation of children and young people in advertising

Category: Special protection measures

13th June 2017

Following public consultation, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) are introducing stricter rules prohibiting the sexual portrayal or sexual representation of under-18s, and those who appear to be under 18, in advertising.

CAP is the self-regulatory body that creates, revises and enforces the CAP Code. The CAP Code covers non-broadcast marketing communications, which include those placed in traditional and new media, promotional marketing, direct marketing communications and marketing communications on marketers' own websites.

Following widespread concern around the role of advertising in premature sexualisation of children and young people and its links to harm, CAP carried out a consultation on new rules to protect the welfare of under-18s, alongside national and international measures prohibiting certain types of sexual depiction of under-18s.

The new rules being introduced will bring the CAP Code into line with the BCAP Code, and will go even further by protecting all those under-18, as opposed to just children under-16. Under the new rules, any sexualised depiction of under-18s will be prohibited, unless the principal function of the ad is to promote the welfare of under-18s or to prevent harm (for example, in ads to promote safe sex).

The rules, which take effect from 2 January 2018, are as follows:

New CAP Code rule

4.6 Marketing communications must not portray or represent anyone who is, or seems to be, under 18 in a sexual way. However, this rule does not apply to marketing communications whose principal function is to promote the welfare of, or to prevent harm to, under-18s, provided any sexual portrayal or representation is not excessive.

New BCAP Code rule to replace rule 5.5:

4.4 Advertisements must not portray or represent anyone who is, or seems to be, under 18 in a sexual way. However, this rule does not apply to advertisements whose principal function is to promote the welfare of, or to prevent harm to, under-18s, provided any sexual portrayal or representation is not excessive.

However, as advocated for by women and children's organisations, these new rules would only be the first step in a long journey to dismantle the media's shallow portrayal of women, which through the sexualisation of adults as much as children can have a profoundly negative effect on young people.

Whilst new rules are a positive step towards necessary and proportionate strengthening of existing rules to protect the welfare of under-18s, there is continued concern that gender stereotyping of girls and women is still perpetuated in the media. Such stereotypes can have extremely negative effects on young girls - on how they perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others. There remains a serious need for children and young people to receive the information and safe support they require to develop critical capacities that will enable them to assess and examine gendered roles and behavioural expectations as depicted through the images promoted in advertising. The capacity of boys and girls to develop an understanding of the impacts of such gender stereotyping will aid in protecting themselves and others from personal harm and disrespect. This prepares them appropriately for a responsible and human rights respecting life in a free society where equality is promoted and discrimination against women and girls is no longer accepted.

 

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