For release: Friday 6 May, 2011

The Australian Christian Lobby welcomes Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella’s call for a tougher stance on sexualized imagery in advertising. Ms Mirabella said self-policing of the advertising industry does not work and she has called for a statutory body with power to levy serious fines on offenders.

“The simple fact is that no amount of parental control can avoid children absorbing the overt sexuality and objectification that has seeped into today's marketing culture,” said ACL spokeswoman Wendy Francis.

“The good news is that there are Federal inquiries into this issue happening right now. Premature sexualisation is becoming a hot topic in public debate forums.” Last month, Ms Francis of Queensland and ACL’s Victoria Director appeared before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in regard to their Inquiry into the  Regulation of Billboard Advertising.

This inquiry was set up by Labor MP Graham Perrott. Ms Francis said it was great to see bi-partisan recognition of the problem.

They presented research which showed exposure of sexualised images to young people has been linked to childhood anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and self harm.

Sadly the 2009 Senate Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts also held an Inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment. No action was taken.

Since that time The Australian Psychological Society has released guidelines for parents as to how to deal with “the bombardment of highly sexualised images their children experience”.

“We all know it’s there. But highly sexualised imagery and the effect of premature sexualisation in our children is not inevitable – on the contrary, it can be stopped if only we can find the political will,” Ms Francis said.

She said this debate had gone on for too long and has called for decisive action from our Government. “The community outrage has been gathering for long enough – it’s time to act,” she said. “Research confirms that younger and younger children are becoming sexually active in our community. How much more research has to be gathered to come to the conclusion that our children are being adversely affected by advertisers who are greedy for their slice of business and are using shock tactics to gain attention with no thought of the damage being caused to young and impressionable minds?”

Research from both the Australian Medical Association and the American Psychological Association has shown that early sexualisation of children, and particularly of girls, causes a variety of problems.