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ASCI reforms Code to address issues of gender identity, body shaming in advertising

The ASCI code already required ads to not deride anyone on the basis of race, caste, creed, gender or nationality.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has updated its code to add greater inclusivity in advertising depictions. Advertisements that mock or deride anyone on the bases of gender identity and sexual orientation, body shape, age, and physical and mental conditions, will now be considered in violation of the ASCI Code.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, said, "As societal norms evolve advertising needs to keep pace. Today’s consumers and society rejects portrayals that deride or ridicule people with certain characteristics. For instances, portrayals that suggest that a certain body shape is sluggish or a certain physical ailments can be laughed at, are no longer acceptable. Ads would do well to include diverse portrayals but in a way that is positive rather than create unacceptable caricatures or demeaning depictions. That’s the reason why the code has been updated to include the concerns of consumers in the society, and to safeguard their interest through inclusive and sensitised advertising towards all sections of our country."

The ASCI code already required ads to not deride anyone on the basis of race, caste, creed, gender or nationality. However, new areas of possible discrimination or derision have now been identified.

This clause is now updated as part of Chapter 3 pertaining to advertisements that cause harm, which reads as follows:

3.1. No advertisement shall be permitted which:

(b) Derides any individual or groups on the basis of race, caste, color, religion, gender, body shape, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental conditions or nationality.

As a future-facing organisation, ASCI works to ensure that its guidelines keep pace with the ever-evolving society. As consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about unfavourable depictions of certain sections of society, this change ensures that advertising too keeps pace with these rightful expectations.

“We have seen consumers call out ads that mock or deride people, or portray them in unfavourable ways. And it is only right that advertising becomes more inclusive and sensitive to this. Similarly, to deride someone with a physical or mental ailment, or their gender identity would now violate the ASCI code. With this change, ASCI hopes to ensure that advertising becomes more inclusive and sensitised to all sections of our country, and does not perpetuate certain portrayals that have no place in a progressive society," she added.

The changes to the ASCI code were approved by the board recently.

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