Report Highlights Inconsistent Standards On Sexist Advertising Between Regional Regulatory Bodies

The report, from Brno-based campaign group Nesehnutí, analysed the procedures used by Regional Trade Licensing Authorities (KŽÚ) to evaluate sexism in advertising. The research found that although fines had been imposed in over 20 cases, the criteria were not applied uniformly between each KŽÚ, meaning that some adverts were deemed problematic in some regions and not in others. Photo credit: Nesehnutí.

Czech Rep., Aug 28 (BD) – Brno-based social justice organization Nesehnutí has published a report, Under the Magnifying Glass: Regulation of Sexism in Advertising, assessing the regulation of sexist advertising in the Czech Republic in the period 2013-18. The report found significant regional disparities in the implementation of advertising standards.

During this period, the Regional Trade Licensing Authorities (KŽÚs) received 57 complaints from the public about sexist advertising, of which 21 cases were deemed to be discriminatory, leading to fines being issued. However, the report states that rules were applied differently by different KŽÚs, meaning that, according to Nesehnutí’s Petra Havlíková, “a slogan about pruning in connection with an exposed female body was considered problematic by one regional trade licensing office, while the other assessed it as harmless in a very similar advertisement.” These findings confirm those of a report from the Public Defender of Rights in 2018. 

An iRobot ad that, Nesehnutí wrote, “combines several prejudices associated with women.” Image source: Nesehnutí.

The KŽÚs imposed 21 fines during the six-year period in question, up to a maximum of CZK 80,000, and altogether totalling CZK 573,500. The highest fines were paid by the Brno pawnshop Zastavárna Index, which paid two fines in 2016 and 2017 of CZK 50,000 and 80,000 respectively. “The advertising by Zastavárna Index is a typical example of the principle of ‘sex sells’, the use of the exposed human body to attract attention,” said Eva Bartáková from Nesehnutí. “The woman in the advertisement acts as an object for others to look at and has no connection with the product. The use of the female body merely to attract attention contributes to the fact that in our society we tend to perceive women as objects for others rather than as independent subjects with their own will.”

The City of Prague received the most complaints (22), while the Karlovy Vary KŽÚ did not receive any complaints at all about sexist advertising. Sexism was by far the most common complaint from the public; there were only three other adverts in the same period that provoked complaints for other reasons. The report also states that authorities rarely use their powers to initiate proceedings themselves on the basis of their own investigations, rather than waiting for complaints. In the whole six-year period monitored, this option was used only five times, four of which were by the South Moravia KŽÚ.

A Snapback ad that, Nesehnutí wrote, “shows the serious societal problem of violence against women as something cool.” Photo credit: Nesehnutí.

The report makes a series of further recommendations for the KŽÚs and the Ministry of Industry and Trade, including:

  • making greater use of special measures that allow the blocking or removal of illegal advertising, to keep as few sexist advertisements as possible in the public sphere. 
  • an expansion of the Advertising Regulation Act to regulate not just business advertising but also other types, such as adverts for educational institutions.
  • developing strategies for dealing with advertising online and on social media. This is where most advertising currently appears, but it is also difficult to regulate because it is short-term (Instagram stories may be present only 24 hours and can reach thousands of users) and it is often difficult to trace who placed the ad.

Nesehnutí has been drawing attention to this issue for a long time, notably with the “Sexist Little Pig” [“Sexistické prasátečko”] anti-prize for the most sexist ad of the year, which was awarded for ten years until 2018. 

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