(Another) Israeli First

Israel has become the first country to legislate against the use of severely underweight models in advertising. I’m not a big fan of excessive legislation, but one of the functions of the law is to send a message to society about what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour. So yes, I’m in favour of this particular law.


I just saw that CNN did a video piece on the law, in particular the role of Adi Barkan, a well-known fashion photographer, in promoting the legislation.

Below is the Jerusalem Post article on the new legislation:

Israel has become the first country in the world to legislate “beauty” by making it illegal for the media to publicize models who appear severely underweight. The Knesset passed on its second and third reading late Monday night a private member’s bill initiated by MK Rachel Adatto (Kadima) aimed at minimizing media images that contribute to the prevalence of eating disorders.

The Knesset passed the bill unanimously. While other countries have shown interest in the legislation process as they face the same dangers, they have not made the presentation of sickly skinny models a crime.

Adatto, who is chairman of the Knesset Women’s Lobby and has held conferences on anorexia in the Knesset, said the law was a “revolution in the concept of beauty, smashing the anorexic model that has served young people who tried to copy it.”

As a result of their skin-and-bones ideal of advertised beauty, media consumers lost so much weight that five percent of all victims have died.

Some people suffering from anorexia weigh only 30 kilos in the most serious stages, the Kadima MK said, but they nevertheless contend that they are “overweight.”

“This law returns the model of beauty to healthy and possible bounds, which will prevent our children from falling victims to this epidemic,” Adatto said. “Thanks to the law, our youth will get the message that being thin is accepted [by some] but even thinness has a limit. It is possible to be too thin,” she said, referring to the famous quote to the contrary (and included wealth) by the Duchess of Windsor.

The law determines that models who have a body-mass index (BMI) of 18.5 or less may not appear in advertisements.

Such a person will be examined by a doctor to ensure she or he is not underweight. The conditions also cover foreign models and imported images. Models cannot be made to look too thin using graphics editing programs either.

Adatto said the vote was “the first step in halting the insufferable condition in which people starve themselves because of poor body image and the influence of the culture and media.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud), who worked with Adatto on the bill, said the law will “be a breakthrough in fighting eating disorders” and show models and those who are behind them that anorexia endangers life.

Doctors who treat eating disorders had approached Adatto about preparing such a bill. They told her they felt helpless when the adult sufferer refuses to be hospitalized. A second bill she initiated, which passed its first reading on Monday, makes it possible to hospitalize anorexic adults against their will so they can get treatment.

In an average year, 35 people (mostly women and girls) die of anorexia. Annually, some 1,500 Israelis are diagnosed with an eating disorder.

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