The draft Law on Advertising is expected to address inequality in the representation of women in advertising, including inappropriate and degrading stereotypes, says Bui Thi Phuong from Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and Public Administration.
"In most advertising, women are always restricted to doing simple work such as housework or are shown in the fashion or cosmetics industries," Phuong said. "People rarely see women in the role of successful entrepreneurs or dedicated scientists."
Advertisers also perpetuated gender stereotypes in their depictions of children, emphasising the differences between boys and girls, she said, with girls often helping their mothers wash dirty clothes while boys participate in sports with their fathers.
"These types of advertisements have an effect on young minds," Phuong said. "They send the wrong message in society that the male is the decision maker and does important work."
Dr Nguyen Quy Thanh of the sociology department at the University of Social Science and Humanities agreed, saying that women were also being exploited in advertising, with the female body presented for its sexual allure.
For instance, an image of a beautiful woman besides a beverage product and the word ‘delicious' gave mixed signals, Thanh said.
He made a recent survey of television advertising which showed that 60 per cent of the ads had woman as the primary character, and 80 per cent depicted beautiful young women.
This type of ad had even been banned in some countries, Thanh said. Many television ads in India were banned after a deodorant spot was aired earlier this year featuring a girl who couldn't help tearing off her clothes whenever a man who used the product passed by.
Nguyen Thu Ha, a Ha Noi resident, said she always felt annoyed by an ad for a seasoning product in which a man called his wife com (rice) and his girlfriend pho (noodles) – a vernacular for men who are tired of their wives.
"Women shouldn't be referred to like that," Ha said. "It may be funny to say with your friends, but it's totally inappropriate to broadcast it nationwide."
However, Do Kim Dung, vice president of the Viet Nam Advertising Association and chairman of the Viet Nam Advertising Institute, said 90 per cent of his company's advertising orders were for products targeted to female consumers, so images of women doing housework or using beauty products were unavoidable.
"What advertisers want is to attract viewers' attention and get them to buy their products," Dung said. "They are only afraid of losing their clients and losing their profits."
Ninh Thi Thu Huong, head of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism's Advertising and Promotion Office, said the draft Law on Advertising would require the implementation of gender equality measures.
Huong, who is also deputy head of the law's drafting committee, said that under the law, all ads would be closely screened before being broadcast. Violators would have their ads banned and face fines of up to VND200 million (US$9,600).
However, Dung noted that Singapore had no advertising law but ethically compliant advertisers agreed not to violate
The draft law would be submitted to the Government for consideration later this month, Huong said. — VNS