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What’s this about lads mags being against the law?

By Principal Lawyer, Employment & Partnership

Employers and retailers are required by law not to sexually harass or discriminate against their staff and customers.

Under the Equality Act, sexual harassment is defined as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which violates an employee or customer’s dignity, or creates a degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

So-called ‘lads mags’ feature on their covers porn-style photographs of women touching their breasts and crotches in sexually suggestive poses, like pictures of callgirls in photo-booths. These images are on display in mainstream supermarkets and high-street shops.

Many customers reasonably find the display of these images in mainstream shops violates their dignity, or creates a degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. If they complain about this to the retailers who display them, the law will back them up. Equally, the same retailers could find themselves exposed to valid claims by employees who find it sexually degrading to have to handle the magazine covers at work.

But isn’t that censorship?

The issue highlighted by the ‘Lose the Lads Mags’ campaign focuses on magazines which feature pornographic and sexually demeaning images on their front covers in ordinary everyday shops – not content sold in specialist sex and porn shops to customers who seek them out.

It is the unavoidable mainstream aspect of the display of lads mags to ordinary grocery shoppers, teenagers and children which is being challenged. Customers who visit to buy bread and milk, and staff stacking shelves, should not be made to feel sexually degraded when they do so.