Israel bans use of ultra-skinny models

Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:04am EDT

* Doctors must sign off on model's weight

* Advertisers obliged to come clean on "photoshopping"

JERUSALEM, March 20(Reuters) - Israeli lawmakers have banned underweight models from catwalks and commercials, a measure they hope will reduce eating disorders and promote a healthy body image.

The law, passed late on Monday, says women and men cannot be hired for modeling jobs unless a doctor stipulates they are not underweight, with a body mass index (BMI) -- a measure expressing a ratio of weight to height -- of no less than 18.5.

The law also bans the use of a person who "appears underweight" and says advertisers must explicitly state if graphic manipulation was done to make a model look thinner in a photo.

Rachel Adato, one of the lawmakers who pushed the bill, said ahead of the vote she hoped the law would protect youth from pursuing unattainable ideals of beauty. "Beautiful is not underweight, beautiful should not be anorexic," she said.

The fashion industry's use of wafer-thin models on runways and in magazines has for years sparked heated debate. Critics say the practice promotes an unhealthy body image among women, which contributes to anorexia and other eating disorders.

Designers and agencies have often been criticised for putting relentless pressure on their models to stay unhealthily thin. After two anorexic Latin American models died in 2006, countries including Italy and India banned underweight models from the catwalk.

Adi Barkan, an Israeli fashion photographer and model agent who collaborated with Adato on promoting the law, said impossible standards set by the fashion industry were getting too dangerous.

"I look (back) 15 to 20 years ago, we shot models (sized) thirty-eight. Today, it's twenty-four." Barkan said on the set of a photoshoot in Tel Aviv.

"This is the difference between thin and too thin. This is the difference between death and life," he added.

Danit Rozman, an Israeli model on Barkan's set, said it was important for young women to accept who they were. "I think it's better to bring something more real to the industry and in general to the world," Rozman said. (Additional reporting by Rami Amichai; Writing by Maayan Lubell, editing by Paul Casciato)