Stockholm bans sexist advertising in public spaces

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Stockholm bans sexist advertising in public spaces
People pass a billboard advertising underwear in Stockholm. Photo: Foto: Jessica Gow / TT

Stockholm's city council has voted to remove advertising billboards deemed sexist or degrading from public spaces in the Swedish capital.


The decision was voted through on Monday, with all parties but the Sweden Democrats in favour, and will come into effect within one month.

"The city has a responsibility towards its citizens, to ensure that advertising they are exposed to is not offensive or upsetting in any way," Green Party deputy mayor Daniel Helldén, who has been a driving force behind the ban, told The Local in December last year. 

Speaking in the council meeting on Monday, Helldén said: "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."

The Swedish advertising industry is already subject to self-regulation, with the Advertising Ombudsman's guidelines stating that advertisements should not depict women or men as "mere sex objects" or in other ways which are "degrading and clearly sexist".

However, the body only has the ability to make judgments on adverts, not to impose sanctions. The new measures will allow the city council to remove any ads that break the guidelines.

It applies to around 700 billboards in Stockholm's public spaces, but those which are not property of the city -- such as ads on public transport, run by the regional government -- won't be affected.

Sweden is regularly ranked near the top of global gender equality indexes, but a 2016 study from the Swedish Women's Lobby and organizations in Denmark and Norway labelled Sweden as the "worst Nordic country" at tackling sexism in advertising. 

A report commissioned by the Swedish government in 2008 advised a ban on all sexist advertising, though the government dropped the suggestion later that year. In 2014, the Social Democrats, in opposition at the time and currently governing in coalition with the Green Party, said they would pick up this report if they came to power. 

Stockholm's move follows similar bans in other European cities.

Last year, Paris banned sexist adverts from the French capital's billboards, as well as those deemed homophobic or degrading to the relationships between men and women. And in Germany, Berlin has also mulled a similar move.

READ MORE: Sweden 'worst in Nordics' on sexist advertising: report


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