Suffocated Woman Ad, Designed For Campaign Against Honour Killings, Escapes Ban

An ad featuring a woman being suffocated with a plastic bag, which was a part of a campaign against honour killing, has escaped a ban from a top ad watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority received six complaints on whether the ad was distressing or condoned unsafe practice.

The ad, created by Leo Burnett, represents the story of Shafilea Ahmed, whose parents suffocated her with a plastic bag in front of her siblings in September 2003, for supposedly bringing shame on her family after she refused to agree to an arranged marriage.

The mocked-up cover was part of the Cosmopolitan’s campaign, alongside women’s charity Karma Nirvana, to raise awareness of honour-based violence.

The campaign was also awarded a Silver Design Lion at Cannes.

A Cosmopolitan spokesperson said:

“We are incredibly proud of our campaign to call for a day of remembrance for the victims of honour killings. More than 100,000 people have supported the campaign. It has also resulted in the 14th July being declared as a Day of Memory to honour British victims of this horrific crime.”


Karma Nirvana said that it aimed to highlight a “growing area of concern in the UK and to honour the memory of women murdered by their families in the name of honour”.

It added that the text’#RememberShafilea’ gave context to the image, and that the decision to run the ad had not been taken lightly.

The ASA agreed that the text in the ad made it clear the intentions of the charity clea, and said that it was “unlikely to cause unjustifiable distress”.

Further dismissing claims that it encouraged unsafe practice, Karma Nirvana  explained that the audience of the magazine is adult.

Agreeing with it, ASA said, “We did not consider that the ad had particular appeal to children or presented the activity in a positive light; we concluded that the ad did not condone or encourage an unsafe practice.”


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