Ban on Stick-thin Models Passes Knesset Hurdle

A bill to bar the use of underweight models in local advertising campaigns took another step toward passage yesterday when it was approved by the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health committee. It will now be sent to the plenum for its first reading.

The bill states that female models with a body mass index of 18.5 or less, or who appear to have a BMI below that minimum, cannot appear in advertising. The draft law also requires ads to say so in writing if a computer program like Photoshop was used to alter the model's appearance.

Rachel Adatto - Emil Salman
Emil Salman

The bill's sponsor, MK Rachel Adatto (Kadima ), stressed at yesterday's committee session that her intent "is not to hurt the models, but to sever the connection between thinness as presented in the media and the negative impact [of these images] on the health and self-image of teens. Girls see emaciated models on television and long to look like them, because they view them as successful. Some 250,000 Israel teens suffer from eating disorders," Adatto said.

Physicians and representatives from the Health Ministry who attended the session expressed support for the bill - as did modeling agent Adi Barkan, who in fact helped draft it.

"This is a sick industry, and women are fed up," Barkan told the committee. "Most models consume just 500 calories a day and are still told, 'Take a little off your rear.' We shouldn't export people who want to commit suicide."

But the Yuli modeling agency has come out against the bill.

"If that's the standard, not a single model will succeed internationally, and foreign companies also won't be able to advertise here," agency representative Ziva Michael told the committee. "This is unrealistic. There are international models like Shirley Bouganim, Adi Neumann and Yana Gur whose BMI is around 17, yet they are healthy and eat just fine," Michael said.

The Justice Ministry also voiced reservations about the bill. "It's problematic to completely bar a person from engaging in a certain occupation," said ministry representative Sarit Spiegelstein. "We're not familiar with any such clause in [other] legislation."

But committee chairman MK Haim Katz (Likud ) was unmoved. "The statistics are shocking," he said. "Preventing harm to the health of children and teens is top priority for my committee."