Sweden has decided not to ban sexist advertising, saying it would risk undermining the country's cherished right to freedom of speech.
But the decision puts the country at odds with its Nordic neighbours. Norway and Denmark have strict limits on
the use of such images for commercial gain.
In Norway, sexist advertising has been banned since 2003. The ban forms part of a much broader package of legal limits on advertising, protecting the depiction of religion, sexuality, race and gender.
Basically, if something is offensive or it makes the viewer feel uncomfortable when they look at it, it shouldn't be done , explained Sol Olving, head of Norway's Kreativt Forum, an association of the country's top advertising agencies:
Naked people are wonderful, of course, but they have to be relevant to the product. You could have a naked person advertising shower gel or a cream, but not a woman in a bikini draped across a car."
Norwegian firms that refuse to remove
or alter offensive adverts after having a complaint upheld face a hefty fine of 500,000 Norwegian kroner (£49,000; 62,500 euros).
Both Norway and Denmark are keen to emphasise that their advertising limits do not prevent freedom of speech,
stifle creativity or mean that there is never a beautiful naked human form on display.
Denmark's advertising ombudsman Henrik Oe says many advertisers are becoming increasingly creative, using humour to stretch the boundaries and appeal to Danish
consumers. He says he receives only around 10 complaints about sexist advertising each year and that firms normally remove the offending images quickly.
Sweden, however, despite commissioning a special government rapporteur to look into the
matter, is not following the legal professor's advice that freedom of speech does not extend to commercial messages and limits are needed.
This law would be against freedom of speech, which is protected by the constitution , said Malin
Engstedt, spokesperson for Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni: The minister is not convinced that this law would improve things.
The Swedish Consumers Association (Sveriges Konsumentråd) has reacted angrily to one of the ice pops
in GB's new line. 'Girlie', a star-shaped, pink ice-cream with glitter make-up stored inside the stick, is entirely inappropriate, according to the association...
US-based toy retailer Toys 'R' Us has been reprimanded for gender discrimination following a complaint filed by a group of Swedish sixth graders about the store's 2008 Christmas catalogue.
Last winter, a sixth grade class at Gustavslund school in
south central Sweden reported Toys 'R' Us to the Reklamombudsmannen (Ro), a self-regulatory agency which polices marketing and advertising communications in Sweden to ensure they are in line with guidelines set out by the International Chamber of
According to the youngsters, the Toys 'R' Us Christmas catalogue featured outdated gender roles because boys and girls were shown playing with different types of toys, whereby the boys were portrayed as active and the girls as passive
, according to a statement from Ro.
13-year-old Hannes Psajd explained that he and his twin sister had always shared the same toys and that he was concerned about the message sent by the Toys 'R' Us publication: Small girls in princess
stuff…and here are boys dressed as super heroes. It's obvious that you get affected by this .
Upon reviewing the case, the Reklamombudsmannen agreed with the sixth-graders complaint, and have issued a public reprimand of the toy retailer.
According to the Ro's advisory committee the Toys 'R' Us catalogue discriminates based on gender and counteracts positive social behaviour, lifestyles, and attitudes . Specifically, the committee found that the catalogue feature boys playing
in action filled environments while girls are shown sitting or standing in passive poses .
Taken together, the catalogue portrays children's games and choice of toys in a narrow-minded way, and this exclusion of boys and girls from
different types of toys is, in itself, degrading to both genders, Ro said in a statement.
The public reprimand has no accompanying sanctions for Toys 'R' Us.