Renewal of Memorandum of Cooperation between the Gender Equality Commissioner and the Advertising Control Body
The Gender Equality Commissioner and the Advertising Control Body renewed on April 27, 2023, the Memorandum of Cooperation of the two organizations with the aim of eliminating gender stereotypes in the field of advertising. The Memorandum was signed by the Commissioner for Gender Equality, Jozis Christodoulou, and the President of the FED, Sotiroullas Sotiriou.
The cooperation between the two bodies has been successfully implemented for the last three years and until today focused on the examination of complaints submitted to the FED and were related to gender. With the new Memorandum, the two organizations will promote gender awareness actions through, among other things, trainings and seminars aimed at preventing gender discrimination.
The Commissioner for Gender Equality, Jozi Christodoulou, pointed out that “a significant change is being observed in the field of advertising, with a now conscious effort to deconstruct and challenge stereotypes. It is very likely that this comes from the great pressure now exerted by society, which rejects the anachronistic imprint of gender roles.” Emphasizing the role of advertising in shaping society's views and attitudes towards both sexes, she added: “When advertising follows the beaten path, it ends up feeding stereotypes and perpetuating beliefs that ultimately perpetuate sexist attitudes. The time has come for the advertising world to become socially conscious, adapt to our times and follow the needs and sensitivities of the societies it addresses.” Speaking about the overall goal of achieving gender equality, she emphasized that no single action is enough. “What we say and say again is the need for a holistic approach. As I said before, we should not stick to superficial approaches and sweet slogans. Actions are needed at all levels, good coordination and awareness of society”.
On behalf of the FED, the President of the organization, Sotiroula Sotiriou, said: “The renewal of the Memorandum of Cooperation with the Commissioner for Gender Equality strengthens the already valid cooperation between the Office of the Commissioner and the FED. In the years 2020-2022, the FED handled 18 complaints on gender issues. Several of these were resolved by the advertiser withdrawing the communication immediately after the FED first contacted them. In the advertising community it is clear that there is increased social interest in gender representation in advertising. As FED we seek that advertisements do not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm or violently offend society or a social group. At the same time, we recognize that balancing freedom of expression and commercial communication with respect for society's sensitivities is not always an easy task as this debate is ongoing and the limits of what is acceptable are being modified. What matters is that there is conscious care to take social sensitivities into account, even if they differ from those we may have grown up with.
Among other things, the Memorandum > provides for the following:
A) The two organizations agree that advertisements must not include gender stereotypes, promote traditional gender perceptions and sexist attitudes that are likely to cause harm, or offend or promote gender-based violence. In particular:
- Ads must not suggest or imply that certain roles, occupations or personality traits are always associated with a particular gender, are the only options for that gender, or are not expressed never from another gender.
- Advertisements must not suggest or imply that a person's happiness, well-being or occupational recovery depends on whether that person has a particular body type or physical characteristics.
- < li>Ads must not mock or denigrate people who do not meet a particular gender stereotype, even if this is done in context and/or with humorous intent.
- Under no circumstances may ads pressure conforming to specific gender standards or physical characteristics, or present as appropriate behavior the avoidance of people who do not meet specific standards or physical characteristics.
It is pointed out that the above does not mean that advertisements are prohibited from depicting e.g. men doing tinkering at home or women doing laundry, but in no case should it be given the impression that this role/activity is implemented because of the protagonist's gender.
B) The two organizations promote gender information actions through, among others, trainings and seminars aimed at preventing gender discrimination. In these seminars, the FED presents practical examples from Cyprus as well as other member countries of the European Advertising Standards Alliance.
C) In the event of a complaint being submitted to the FED on issues related to the way gender is presented in an advertisement, the FED will be able to address the Gender Equality Commissioner for her own position on the advertisement, so that it is taken into account by the First Instance /Secondary Committee when issuing a decision.
D) The Directorate of the FED provides free advisory services of advertisement pre-checking (copy advice) to its members. In its placement to the member concerned, it also takes into account the way the genders are presented, even if this has not been requested by the person submitting the request. It is pointed out that the copy advice concerns the evaluation of advertising material, before it is published, in order to identify possible violations of the Cyprus Code of Communication Ethics and its Appendices. It is an advisory service provided with complete confidentiality, before the publication/broadcast of an advertisement, it concerns a specific advertising proposal and has the character of a non-binding opinion.
E) In the event that legislation or other regulation is proposed or formulated for advertising communication issues from the Office of the Commissioner for Gender Equality, the FED will be invited in the context of the relevant consultation to take a position on the proposed text.
F) Every year, the FED will create at least one concise and easy-to-use text which will codify the provisions of the decisions of its Committees, so that businesses and other bodies can be helped in shaping their communication in relation to the presentation of the sexes.