Starting on Tuesday, female and male models who have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 may not be shown in the media or on Israeli websites or go down the catwalk at fashion shows.
The law, initiated by then-Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, aims to protect impressionable teens from eating disorders.
Every year, an average of 30 young adults and teens die of anorexia or bulimia.
The law, also sponsored by Likud-Beytenu MK Danny Danon and believed to be the first of its kind in the world, does make violations a criminal offense bearing a fine. But violators can be sued in court by interested citizens, including families whose relatives have suffered or died due to eating disorders encouraged by images of overly thin models.
While the media that publish or present illegal images are not liable, they will get a bad image for doing so; the company that produced the ad, ran the fashion show or used the overly skinny presenter can be taken to court.
In addition, any advertisement made to look with Photoshop or other graphics programs as if the model has a BMI under 18.5 has to be labeled with the warning that the image was distorted. The warning must be clear and prominent, covering at least 7 percent of the ad space.
BMI is defined as an individual’s weight in kilos divided by the square of his or her height in meters. Would-be models in campaigns and fashion shows must first obtain and show written statements from their physician stating that their BMI – up to a maximum of three months ago – was above 18.5.
If not, they can not appear.
Adatto, a gynecologist by profession who is not likely to return to the Knesset because since she joined The Tzipi Livni Party and was placed in a low position on the list, said that on January 1, a “revolution against the anorexic model of beauty begins. Overly skinny models who look as if they eat a biscuit a day and then serve as a model for our children” will no longer be visible.
Every year, some 1,500 teenagers develop an eating disorder, and 5% of those suffering from anorexia die each year. The problem even effects the ultra-Orthodox community because some haredi men increasingly demand very-thin brides.
Adi Barkan, a veteran fashion photographer and model agent who “repented” and is in the Israel Center for the Change in Eating Habits and a prime advocate for Adatto’s bill, said: “We are all affected. We wear black, do [drastic] diets and are obsessive about our looks. The time has come for the end of the era of skeletons on billboards and sickly thinness all over. The time has come to think about ourselves and our children and take responsibility for what we show them. Too thin is not sexy.”
The Second Authority for Television and Radio, which regulates commercially operated television and radio broadcasts, has already issued instructions to its employees to observe the new law.