Liz Hurley 'sexualising kids' with skimpy bikinis

Elizabeth Hurley has been accused of sexualising young girls through her bikini designs
Elizabeth Hurley has been accused of sexualising young girls through her bikini designs

Elizabeth Hurley has been accused of sexualising young girls through her summer swimwear line, which will include skimpy bikini designs for children.

The actress-turned-designer has faced criticism over images on her swimwear label's website featuring young girls wearing provocative bikinis while striking poses more suited to adult models.

The main image causing outrage is of a young blonde model with her head cast forward, eyes looking up and hands on her hips, posing like an adult bikini model.

Dressed in a skimpy leopard print two-piece with a pink frill around the triangle top, the eight-year-old shows off the 'Mini Cha Cha Bikini', part of Miss Hurley's collection described as being 'great for girls who want to look grown up'.

A number of campaigners including child protection experts and parenting groups have accused the designer, who has a ten-year-old son, of encouraging inappropriate behaviour.

The complaints have also led to calls for regulation in the children's clothing industry to discourage the production and sale of inappropriate clothing and prevent the commercialisation of children's sexuality.

The Bailey report, backed by the UK Government last year examined the factors contributing to the sexualisation of children and set out a series of guidelines to be met in order to prevent the sexualisation of young children.

One of the recommendations was for "retailers to offer more age-appropriate clothes for children and sign up to a code of practice which checks and challenges the design, buying display and marketing of clothes, products and services for children".

While no such guidelines exist in Australia at this stage, a Senate inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media which took place in 2008 recommended self-regulation over child sexualisation with a view to review this in 18 months.

The recommendations were considered soft by critics, saying it amounted to "thrashing advertisers with a feather", and the review still hasn't happened.

Child sexualisation expert Dr Emma Rush from the Australia Institute says though the report found the onus is on retailers and manufacturers when it comes to producing and profiting from clothing that sexualises young children, guidelines should be imposed by the government.

"It is one of those things where there is bipartisan support, so it should already be in place really. It's a matter of convincing the right people that there is a problem," she says.

"Obviously the industry has an interest in not being regulated, but it's very concerning when people who have expertise in child psychology and child protection are saying this is a problem, and people whose expertise is in fashion say it's not by creating and selling these clothes.

"People in the fashion industry should really be paying attention to those speaking out who are experts in those areas, and the government, in a position of leadership, should take charge."

This isn't the first time Miss Hurley has found herself in hot water over the same issue — a previous collection featuring leopard print bikinis, though slightly less skimpy, attracted similar criticism a few years ago.

"Obviously leopard print has animal overtones and historically has been associated with sexuality. It's definitely inappropriate," says Dr Rush.

A spokesperson for the designer apparently did not see the issue with the swimsuits or advertising images.

"Our collections sell extremely well in Harrods and in numerous stores across America and the Middle East." he said.

"Most of our customers are repeat customers who report that their kids adore the designs."

Your say: Do you think guidelines should be enforced for clothing designers to prevent the sexualisation of children?

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