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Maas criticized for proposed 'sexist advert' ban

April 12, 2016

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has come under fire after reportedly calling for a ban on adverts which "reduce women or men to sexual objects." Critics described the proposed reform as "absurd" and "narrow-minded."

Advert showing four women in bikinis from behind
Under Heiko Maas' proposed reform, advertisements like this could be banned: 'Don't look - but rent!"Image: picture alliance/dpa/A. Burgi

The comments on Monday followed reports in German weekly magazine "Spiegel," that German Justice Minister and Social Democrat (SPD) Heiko Maas wants to eliminate "gender discriminatory advertising."

The aim of the proposal - which is reportedly in response to the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year's Eve - is to create a "modern gender image" in Germany, "Spiegel" said. In future, posters or ads which "reduce women or men to sexual objects" could be banned. In the case of dispute, a court would have to decide.

'Nanny state'

Free Democratic Party leader Christian Lindner accused the SPD politician on Monday of "heading towards the next step of a nanny state, which doesn't trust the citizens and deems consumers to be incompetent."

"His plans to ban nudity and sexual advertising are completely narrow-minded. To demand the veiling of women or taming of men, is something known among radical Islamic religious leaders, but not from the German minister of justice," Linder told the German Press Agency in Berlin on Monday.

Heiko Maas
Heiko Maas has reportedly said he wants to eliminate "gender discriminatory advertising"Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

'Matter of taste'

Germany's Association of Communications Agencies (GWA) described Maas' proposal as "completely absurd," arguing that the discussion about rules on advertising would be reduced to a "matter of taste."

"Who wants to clearly decide when advertising is sexist?" GWA President Wolf Ingomar Faecks commented.

Berlin's Justice Senator Thomas Heilmann, a Christian Democrat, also criticized Maas, saying that the SPD "didn't seem to have learnt from the mistakes of the Greens."

"The population wants to minimize legal regulations. We need neither a meat-free day nor regulations of on advertising posters," Heilmann said, referring back to the uproar three years ago when Germany's Green party called for a "Veggie Day" in workplace cafeterias at federal government institutions.

"There's an advertising and press council for that, which work well," he added.

A draft amendment of the law relating to advertising is due to be discussed by the German government shortly.

ksb/rc (AFP, dpa)