Discussing gender stereotypes and sexism in advertising

On Monday, 17 June, representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office invited professionals from the Latvian Advertising Association, the Consumer Rights Protection Centre and the Ministry of Welfare to discuss gender stereotypes and sexism in advertising.

“In our society, there are still many gender stereotypes, and they are sometimes also reflected in advertising in publicly available places. Regular exchange of ideas is a valuable and very necessary step in the context of gender equality and prevention of violence,” Deputy Ombudsman Ineta Piļāne pointed out.

Although various documents have been developed and made publicly available in Latvia (for example, the Code of Ethics for Latvian Advertising Professionals), the participants of the conversation agreed that it would be useful to implement various educational activities that would help advertisers to better understand what content should be avoided in advertisements.

The discussion was another step by the Ombudsman in raising this topic. It is noteworthy that just three years ago there was a discussion on this topic among professionals in the field.


Sometimes advertisements of building materials stores or car repair shops, tire services and even medical institutions include half-naked women who have nothing to do with the business in question. A woman is depicted as one who is unable to make wise decisions without the help of a man. It also happens that half-naked men advertise bread or dental services. It is possible that advertisers have not aimed to offend anyone, but the easiest way has been chosen to address public perceptions. However, such advertisements show defamatory or even discriminatory treatment of one of the sexes.

The Advertising Law stipulates that it is prohibited to express discrimination against a person in advertising based on their race, colour, gender, age, religious, political or other convictions, national or social origin, possession status, or other circumstances. Misleading advertising is prohibited. It is allowed to include in the advertisement only such statements or visual images that do not violate the norms of ethics, humanism, morality, and decency.

Although the Advertising Law does not explicitly refer to the prohibition of stereotypical gender representation or sexism, such norms can be found in international documents binding on Latvia.

  • The discussion was organised by the Ombudsman’s Office of the Republic of Latvia in the framework of the participation in a Regional Project, funded by the EEA and Norway Grants.
  • Project name: Supporting National Human Rights Institutions in Monitoring Fundamental Rights and the Fundamental Rights Aspects of the Rule of Law (NO. 2018-1-1440).