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Spain battles against sexism MADRID-The Spanish government's office for women's issues has started a program to rid the country of sexist advertising.

Overseeing the program will be the Observatorio de la Publicidad (the Advertising Observatory) made up of the Ministry of Social Affairs' Instituto de la Mujer (the Women's Institute). Consumers can lodge complaints by calling a toll-free telephone number, and a 16-member Image Advisory Board, made up of consumer advocates, journalists and union representatives, will evaluate ads.

According to Women's Institute Director Marina Subirats, the Observatory's purpose is to change the way women are portrayed in the media, specifically to stop the use of women's bodies as an erotic element and to discourage presenting women as having very limited interests, such as in many ads for cleaning products.

Although the Observatory won't have regulatory power, it will negotiate changes or withdrawal of the ad with the advertiser. If unsuccessful, the Observatory may take the advertiser to court or champion a product boycott.

Since its startup last month the Observatory has called for a boycott of a music magazine, whose teaser ad showed a pregnant body (revealed as a man in later ads). Its copy that could be interpreted as about rape, included the line, "When you see who we've done this to, you'll know what we're capable of."

Costa Rica may soften pre-clearance rules SAN JOSE, Costa Rica-Government officials here have agreed to consider a proposal from advertising and marketing executives that would overturn laws mandating pre-clearing of all advertising.

The country has more than 250 laws regulating advertising communications for all products and is considered one of the most stringent countries in the hemisphere.

"We can't expect to change these regulations overnight," said Jose M. Gonzalez Llorente, director of regional development, Leo Burnett International for Latin America, Coral Gables, Fla., and president of the Inter-American Society for the Freedom of Commercial Speech, formed in 1992 to combat government pre-clearance which is prevalent in the region.

But he and other executives are optimistic about the announcement that followed three days of meetings between industry and government officials last month. The proposal will be written this month.

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