National laws that would require models to have a minimum body mass index and force advertising, marketing and media to warn when images have been photoshopped to make people appear thinner or "more perfect" should be adopted by the Federal Government, a WA legal academic says.
In research published in the Journal of Law and Medicine, Notre Dame lecturer Marilyn Krawitz likens the issue to the regulation of advertising of cigarettes, saying the advertising involved influenced Australians to participate in unhealthy behaviour.
"Australia has been a world leader in the area of cigarette advertising and it should not shy away from taking a leadership role in the area of women's body image," she said in the article.
Ms Krawitz's paper urges the Government to implement legislation similar to Israeli's Photoshop Law to address health problems associated with body image issues and says the changes could be done incrementally.
Ms Krawitz said the Israeli law, which came into effect last year and is the first of its kind in the world, required models to have a body mass index of at least 18.5 or face being disqualified from modelling until their level increased. The law also requires advertising, marketing or media agencies to disclose when photos have been digitally altered to make models look thinner or more attractive.
Breaches of the laws do not invoke criminal sanctions but can open the door to civil law suits.
Ms Krawitz said in Australia similar principles were in a voluntary code of conduct released in 2010.
The code says digital technology should not be used to create images that are unrealistic or unattainable through healthy practices. It also says models should be a "clearly healthy" weight.
But Ms Krawitz's research suggests the code is not sufficiently binding, lacks definitions, is not enforced and contains no penalties.
Senator Scott Ryan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, said he would read the article but there were no plans to make the code mandatory.
'Australia should not shy away from taking a leadership role in the area of women's body image.' "Notre Dame lecturer
- Marilyn Krawitz *