Campaigners are warning high street retailers to remove magazines that display naked and near-naked images on their covers or face the risk of legal action.
The Lose the Lads’ Mags campaign, by pressure groups UK Feminista and Object, says displaying publications in stores or requiring staff to handle such magazines could amount to sex discrimination or sexual harassment.
In a letter in the Guardian today, 11 equal rights lawyers say there have been previous cases of staff suing employers in respect to exposure to pornographic material at work, and called on retailers to stop selling “lads’ mag” publications.
“High-street retailers are exposing staff and, in some cases, customers to publications whose handling and display may breach equality legislation,” the letter said.
“Displaying lads’ mags and pornographic papers in ‘mainstream’ shops results in the involuntary exposure of staff and, in some cases, customers to pornographic images.
“Every mainstream retailer which stocks lads’ mags is vulnerable to legal action by staff and, where those publications are visibly on display, by customers.”
The group says it has been contacted by employees who dislike handling such magazines but who feel they have no power to take the issue up with their employers.
UK Feminista and Object are discussing with lawyers about bringing a test case and will support employees who are uncomfortable with images of naked or near-naked women on magazines, the Guardian said.
Kat Banyard, founder of UK Feminista, told the newspaper: “For too long supermarkets have got off the hook, stocking lad’s mags in the face of widespread opposition, but this time we have the law on our side.
“Every shop that sells lads’ mags – publications which are deeply harmful to women – are opening themselves up to legal action.”
Sophie Bennett, campaigns officer for Object, added: ” Lads’ mags dehumanise and objectify women, promoting harmful attitudes that underpin discrimination and violence against women and girls.
“Reducing women to sex objects sends out an incredibly dangerous message that women are constantly sexually available and displaying these publications in everyday spaces normalises this sexism.”