New bills seek to criminalize fat-shaming, discrimination

New bills seek to criminalize fat-shaming, discrimination

Proposed legislation would outlaw denial of employment or entry into clubs to people on basis of their weight

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg in the Knesset, February 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg in the Knesset, February 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Denying an obese person a job or entry to a public place on the basis of their weight will become illegal in Israel if three new Knesset bills become law.

Furthermore, mocking or shaming a fat person could land the perpetrator in court, according to the proposals.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg has lodged three bills to tackle the issue, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Monday, days after the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) called for regulations to control when and how doctors can raise the subject of a patient’s excess weight.

The first bill would amend a law against discrimination in products and services, making it illegal, for example, to bar an obese person from a place of entertainment, such as a nightclub, or to deny insurance coverage.

A second proposed amendment of Israel’s anti-defamation legislation would allow overweight people to seek damages for insults related to their weight.

Zandberg was also seeking to amend the equal employment opportunities law to ensure that Israelis may not be denied a job on the basis of their weight.

“Overweight people are discriminated against in the workplace and are even ridiculed in advertising and the media,” Zandberg said on Sunday.

Last week, rights group ACRI called on the Israeli Medical Association to formulate rules of behavior governing how medical professionals may comment on their patients’ weight. In a letter to Tami Karni, chairwoman of the IMA’s ethics committee, the association said its appeal followed “cumulative evidence” of the need for “clear directives” barring doctors from commenting on a patient’s weight “except in relevant cases,” the Ynet news website reported.

The human rights group claimed that “fat-phobia is the new homophobia” and noted that some US states have legislated against obesity discrimination.

In their letter, ACRI wrote: “Regrettably, using the excuse of medicine, doctors in different fields are allowing themselves to make insulting remarks about the weight of the person in the clinic even though there is no medical justification for it.”

According to one piece of testimony provided by the association, a doctor pointed to an overweight woman’s stomach as she left a clinic for treatment for a skin lesion, saying “you should deal with that, too.” In another case, a dentist instructed a patient not to eat for half an hour, adding “but you’ll probably find that difficult.” In a third case, an ear, nose and throat specialist commented, while writing a prescription for ear drops, that “it’s worth cutting down on your food intake.”

In another example, a doctor asked a patient complaining about shoulder pain, “And what are you doing about that tummy?”

The medical association said that during a debate on the subject several years ago, some doctors recommended asking a patient’s permission before raising such issues. There was general agreement that doctors ought to broach the subject of weight respectfully, the organization said.

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