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Lynne Featherstone's suggestion that The Sun's page 3 can help fuel domestic violence has been backed up by women's groups, which warn pictures of topless women in national newspapers only serve to undermine female equality.

Women's Aid's deputy chief executive Nicki Norman told The Huffington Post UK that page 3 "sends out a strong [negative] message" to women.

"While domestic violence isn't caused directly by page 3, violence against women is a cause and consequence of women's inequality, and the page 3 phenomenon is one example of how women are objectified in the media and sends out a strong message that they should not be valued or respected," she said.

Her comments come after Lynne Featherstone, commenting on the petition to ban page 3, told The Independent on Sunday it had a "deleterious effect."

"If you are on the Tube you may find page 3 is facing you and your young daughter and you may not want that to be a role model for her," she said.

"It's about the constant drip, drip of women being sexualised in the public space [which] has a great bearing on attitudes and domestic violence."

Her comments were welcomed by the founder of the petition, Lucy Holmes, who told The Huffington Post UK: "It's exciting that MPs are coming on board to agree that boobs are not news. Lynne's view is one of scores of reasons why men and women are saying it's time for the Sun to drop page 3."

But Neil Wallis, former deputy editor of The Sun, defended page 3, writing in a blog for The Huffington Post UK those objecting to it were "overwhelmingly white, middle-class, aged late 20s-late 30s, university educated, work in academia, meejah, public services, know what macrobiotic means and how to use a fondue set, don't watch X Factor, go to Greece on their holidays, read the Guardian and watch Channel 4 News, [and] suffer serious sense of humour loss at certain times."

SEE ALSO: Change My Mind: Should Page 3 Be Scrapped?