ASCI revises advertising code to address gender identity and mental health issues

Ads that make fun of people on the basis of gender identity, body shape or mental disorder will now be considered a violation of the advertising code prescribed by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). It comes after the industry self-regulatory body decided to update its advertising code to address some of these emerging issues.

The ASCI code contains provisions that state that advertising representations cannot make fun of race, caste, creed, sex or nationality. However, ASCI’s Board of Directors recently approved changes to the code, to ensure that new areas of possible discrimination or derision are also addressed in order to add greater inclusion in advertising representations.

The revised clause states: “No advertising will be permitted that makes fun of any individual or group on the basis of race, caste, color, religion, sex, body shape , age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental condition or nationality.”

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and General Secretary of ASCI, said: “We have seen consumers call out advertisements that mock or deride people, or present them in an unfavorable way. And it is normal for advertising to become more inclusive and sensitive to this. It is not acceptable, for example, to associate characteristics such as slowness with a certain body shape. Likewise, making fun of someone who is physically or mentally ill or of her gender identity would now violate the ASCI code.

Kapoor said that as a “forward-looking” organization, ASCI will ensure its guidelines keep pace with the ever-changing society. “As consumers are increasingly concerned about unfavorable portrayals of certain sections of society, this change ensures that advertising, too, keeps pace with these legitimate expectations,” she added.

Published on

May 25, 2022

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