Stockholm bans sexist advertising in public spaces 

Stockholm has banned sexist advertising in public spaces, giving the authorities the power to forcibly remove offending images of women 24 hours after they are erected.

Stockholm City Council voted on Monday to ban adverts which "present women or men as simply sex objects", "show a stereotypical image of gender roles”, or "in any other demeaning fashion are obviously sexually discriminatory”.

Only one of the eight parties on the council, the populist Sweden Democrats, opposed the move. Daniel Helldén, the Green Party deputy mayor who has driven through the new law, said that sexist advertising caused many citizens distress.

“It affects a lot of people, especially younger women,” he said. “It makes them think about their own bodies and how they look and feel in a negative way.”

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He said the city authorities were ready to start enforcing the legislation as soon as it comes into effect in three weeks’ time, but hoped they would not have to.

“Maybe the companies won’t put up ads which are sexist or objectifying if they know we’re going to remove them after 24 hours," he said. "So if it’s working well, we won’t have to use this legislation.”

The new law follows similar bans on sexist adverts instituted in Paris and Geneva. It was also influenced by the ban on “body-shaming” posters brought in by London mayor Sadiq Khan in 2016.

Clara Berglund, General Secretary for the Swedish Women’s Lobby, which has campaigned against sexist ads, said her organisation was “very happy” about the vote.

“We believe it’s an obstacle to gender equality that people on their way to work and to school have to see these images,” she said. “There is big support from the public to have this ban. It’s really something that especially young women are really engaged with.”

She said the legislation was necessary because advertisers routinely ignored the judgements of the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman, which is run by Swedish industry.

“They have no ability to impose sanctions, so all they can do is tell a company that the advert they have is gender discriminatory,” she said. “And we know that many companies don’t mind being seen as sexist.”

As transport is the responsibility of Stockholm’s regional government rather than its city council, the ban will not affect advertising on public transport.

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