Girl guides want the Prime Minister to act against computer-enhanced pictures in adverts and magazines which present a false impression of women and lead to distorted ideas about beauty.
Watch a report on the girl guides’ actions
Their call comes amidst mounting concern about the sexualisation of children and as a new survey of girls and young women found that more than half had been bullied for their appearance.
Girlguiding UK launched their petition at a gathering of guides and called on David Cameron to introduce compulsory labelling to help people distinguish between ‘airbrushed’ and natural images.
Airbrushing includes slimming images down on a computer or retouching them to accentuate certain of the model’s features and make her skin look flawless.
Chief Guide, Liz Burnley CBE, said from research the group had carried out and from working with girls, she knew how profoundly girls “feel the pressure to conform to a particular body image”.
“We are proud to support the calls of our members who believe that it is time that the Prime Minister addressed their concerns and acted in the interests of girls and young women across the country”, she said.
A Girlguiding member said it was “really important to highlight how serious this issue has become and demand action to protect all girls and young women from these damaging and unrealistic pressures”.
The petition follows on from Girlguiding UK’s 2009 research, the Girls’ Attitudes survey, which showed that 50 per cent of 16 to 21-year-old girls would consider having surgery to change the way they look.
Over 40 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds admitted to watching what they ate or cutting down on certain foods to excess.
Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone has applauded the girl guides’ move.
Last month she also called for a warning on images of impossibly thin airbrushed women.
A separate survey by youth charity Rathbone found that 56 per cent of the girls who responded aged between 15 and 22 had been abused verbally, physically or online because of their weight, height or hair colour.
Rathbone also found that only one in five was happy with their appearance.
Charity spokesman Peter Gibson said: “It was heartbreaking to learn that young women had been punched and kicked simply because they couldn’t afford the best clothes, or humiliated on the internet due to their size.”
The survey did, however, find that 60 per cent of those bullied received help from family, friends, teachers and counsellors.
The new coalition Government has promised to tackle the increasing sexualisation of youngsters.
Speaking before the general election, David Cameron said he plans to penalise companies who market their products inappropriately to children.
He said: “More and more today, sexual-provocative images are invading public space – space shared by children.
“In the Tube station, at the bus stop, on the billboard – there’s the creeping sense that we’re sleepwalking to a place where ‘porn is the norm’.”
He added: “After all, it’s our shared responsibility to protect children from aggressive commercialism and premature sexualisation.
“This is not about being prudish or old-fashioned. It’s about remembering the simple pleasures of our own childhood – and making sure our children can enjoy them too.”