The new year means new rules for Israel’s fashion models. A new law went into effect Tuesday that prohibits any male or female model with a body mass index (BMI) below 18.5 from being shown in the media, on Israeli websites or from walking down the catwalk at fashion shows.
The law, initiated by then-Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, aims to protect impressionable teens from eating disorders.
The law was also sponsored by Likud-Beytenu MK Danny Danon and is believed to be the first of its kind in the world. Violations are not considered a criminal offense, 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.
The law also requires any advertisement that uses Photoshop or other graphics programs that make the model appear to be under 18.5 BMI to be labeled with a warning that the image was distorted. The warning must be clear and prominent, covering at least 7 percent of the ad space.
Any model to be used in campaigns and fashion shows must first obtain and present written statements from their physician within a three-month time frame stating that their BMI is above 18.5. If not, they do not qualify.
The law has been met with some controversy. Model and TV personality Yael Goldman told Israel’s Channel 2 that the law had no “beneficial effect.” She said, “You can not change the world, models have always been thin and are thin, and there it is,” and added, “the focus must be on educating” the models about the issues.
According to the Jerusalem Post, nearly 1,500 teenagers develop an eating disorder each year in Israel, and 5% of those suffering from anorexia die.