Israel bans underweight models from runways, advertising


Arab-Israeli model Huda Naccache, 22, puts the final touches to her make-up before a photoshoot in Israel on September 18, 2011.


Jack Guez

Israel has passed a law barring underweight models from fashion runways and advertisments in what The Associated Press said may be the first attempt by a government to penalize the fashion industry for its believed contribution to the spread of eating disorders.

The law, passed Monday, requires models to submit recent medical proof of a healthy weight-to-height ratio -- a body mass index of at least 18.5 -- and compels advertisers to clearly label images that have been altered for weight, according to The Washington Post

While Israel does not have a disproportionate amount of girls with eating disorders, the anthropologist Sigal Gooldin told AP, the new law could serve as an example for other nations afflicted with weight-related disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

In Israel, the law's critics argue it focuses too much on weight and too little on heatlh, while The Washington Post notes the ban could result in an increase in virtual modelling, a practice some believe could be equally destructive. 

Eli Edri of Israel's Roberto Models Agency worries the move will unintentionally take work from naturally thin girls, telling Haartez, "I know many models who are totally healthy girls who might be disqualified because of the law," BBC quoted Adri as saying

Supporters, however, see it as a societal breakthrough for young women, many of whom are believed to feel pressured by the ultra-thin look favored by the fashion industry. 

Dr. Rachel Adato, a gynecologist and sponsor of the legislation, told AP only five percent of women would be disqualified under the new law, saying while the law's advocates might "hurt a few models" they will "save a lot of children."

She said governments need to take action on eating disorders, arguing that the fight against them is similar to overcoming smoking, an issue that has sparked numerous state-sponsored campaigns.

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Longtime model agent Adi Barkan told AP he was moved to support the law because of what he witnessed first-hand in 30 years with the industry, saying today's models "look like dead girls."

Several models in recent years have died due to eating complications, prompting debate about weight-related disorders within the fashion industry.

Reuters said Italy and India have banned underweight models from runways, while The Washington Post reported that Norway, France and England have considered implementing measures similar to the Israeli initiative.