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Shenzhen Issues China’s First Advertising Gender Equality Guide

The Review Guide is mainly applicable to commercial advertisements, public service advertisements and other announcement content spread through various channels.

On January 15, seven departments, including the Shenzhen Women’s Federation, the Propaganda Department of the Municipal CPC Committee, the Internet Information Office of the Municipal Party Committee, the Health Commission, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the Market Supervision and Administration Bureau, and the Urban Management and Comprehensive Law Enforcement Bureau, jointly issued the Shenzhen Advertising Gender Equality Review Guide (hereinafter referred to as the “Review Guide”). It is China’s first attempt in the field of gender equality examination in advertising.

Shenzhen is not only one of the most economically developed regions in China, but also a relatively advanced place in terms of system and atmosphere, and the degree of ideological integration with international standards are higher than that of most parts of China. Because of its geographical proximity to Hong Kong, Shenzhen has become one of the earliest special economic zones in China and has been exploring the forefront of Chinese laws and industry norms. The launch of the “Review Guide” is not only an exploration in the field of advertising but also combines the strong Internet industry in Shenzhen, with the background of many technology companies.

The Review Guide is mainly applicable to commercial advertisements, public service advertisements and other announcement content spread through various channels. The identification criteria for gender discrimination attempts are given, the responsibilities of relevant functional departments and advertising subjects are preliminarily defined, and complaints and reporting norms are also set up. Some practitioners commented that the criteria of the Review Guide are relatively clear and operable.

According to some comments, the Review Guide has the following highlights:

First, the situation of suspected sex discrimination in advertising has been definitely clarified for the first time. It enumerates six situations that can be identified, such as sexual implication in advertisements, demeaning, insult, violence or injury to people’s body,  objectificating people’s image and body, belittling people’s ability and role, deliberately highlighting women’s subordinate roles and status, and so on.

The second is to create a standard for examining gender equality in advertising. This paper defines six advocating examination standards and five negative examination standards and enumerates the expression forms of the latter one by one to change the current situation that the inspection criteria are vague. The negative criteria mainly include: distorting, damaging, materializing the female image and body, solidifying the stereotyped gender temperament and behavioral characteristics of men and women, deliberately highlighting the subordinate roles and status of a certain gender, belittling or distorting the ability and role of women, and so on.

The third is to establish a gender equality examination mechanism in advertising. An examination mechanism has been established in four aspects: self-examination, functional department supervision, specialized agency evaluation, and social supervision. For example, it is clearly stipulated that advertisers, advertising operators, and advertising publishers take the primary responsibility for the examination of gender equality in advertising; they are required to strengthen publicity and education, carry out regular training, increase the content of gender equality examination in advertising, and establish an internal gender equality examination system in advertising. Give full play to the power of social supervision, stipulating that any unit or individual who thinks that there is a problem of gender discrimination in advertising can complain to advertisers, advertising operators, and advertising publishers, they can also report or complain to Shenzhen Market Supervision and Administration Bureau, Shenzhen Office for the Promotion of Gender Equality and other relevant departments.

Fourth, it defines the focus of gender equality. Focus on the “three key points” to examine the gender equality of advertising: focus on household products, medical beauty, education and training and other areas of advertising, focusing on the design, production, release, and other aspects of advertising, the whole process, focus on the click-through, wide-coverage, influential film and television, outdoor, self-media, Internet and other channels of advertising.

The fifth is to strengthen the scrutiny and handling of sexist advertisements. Clearly establish a complaint handling mechanism that integrates internal and external of enterprises, and classify and deal with the advertisements as before released, after released and dispute. Prior to the publication of sexist advertisements, advertisers, advertising agents, and advertising publishers are required not to design, produce or publish, and the regulatory authorities shall not register and prohibit publication. The regulatory authorities may require correction and rerelease of sexist advertisements after publication; if they refuse to correct them, the regulatory authorities shall prohibit the publication of such advertisements. If there is a dispute over the results of the examination, the parties may apply to the Municipal Office for the Promotion of Gender Equality, which shall be recognized by the expert Committee organized by the Municipal Office for the Promotion of Gender Equality and issue professional opinions.

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