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Stockholm Bans Sexist Advertising in Public Spaces

City authorities in the Swedish capital voted near-unanimously to keep "offensive or upsetting" imagery off the streets.
Photo by  E.J. Baumeister Jr. / Alamy Stock Photo

City authorities in Sweden's capital have voted to ban sexist advertising from public spaces. The decision was voted through by Stockholm's city council on Monday with near-unanimous agreement from all parties other than the Swedish Democrats, The Local reports, and is expected to come into effect within a month.

Green Party deputy mayor Daniel Helldén has been the architect of the proposals, which have been in motion since December 2017. Helldén had argued then that sexist advertising acted as a "mirror" for society, and that he believed the city had a responsibility to ensure that citizens were not exposed to advertising that was "offensive or upsetting in any way."


Announcing the vote on Monday, Helldén characterized the ban, which also applies to racist advertising, as a necessary step to strip prejudice from the city. "We are taking an important step to ensure that sexist or racist messages and attitudes are not visible on the surfaces that the city of Stockholm owns," he said.

Under existing regulations, the Swedish advertising authorities were able to ban advertisements that are degrading, sexist, or depict women as sexual objects. However, authorities could not impose sanctions on offending adverts. Under Stockholm's new regulations, offending ads on any of the 700 public billboards around the capital can now be removed within 24 hours.

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Stockholm is in good company: Sweden and London banned sexist advertising in 2017, and Geneva and Berlin are considering a similar move. Although such bans have gathered force in recent years, they are not a new phenomenon. A Swedish government-commissioned report first suggested banning sexist adverts as far back as January 2008.

Feminist campaigner Lucy-Anne Holmes of the Women's Campaign for Press Reform, who lobbied British tabloid The Sun to end their practice of displaying naked women on page three of the newspaper, welcomed the news. "It’s brilliant," Holmes tells Broadly. "Images are powerful and sexist ads are damaging and also very dull."

"Numerous studies have long shown that the stereotyping of women in the media affects the way men see women—as objects to be acted upon—as well as the way women see themselves," she goes on. "This feels like a step in the right direction, although it is shame that legislation is needed. You would hope we would beyond sexist ads by now."