October 2, 2012
Posted: 1316 GMT
Swedish furniture giant IKEA apologized Monday for removing women from their catalogues distributed in their stores in Saudi Arabia.
The free Swedish newspaper Metro published an article showing side-by-side images from the IKEA catalogue – in the Saudi version, a woman has been airbrushed out of the photo.
In a statement, IKEA spokeswoman Ulrika Englesson Sandman said the company "regrets" the incidents and understands "why people are upset."
"It is not the local franchisee that has requested the retouch of the discussed pictures" Sandman said." The mistake happened during the work process occurring before presenting the draft catalogue for IKEA Saudi Arabia. We take full responsibility for the mistakes made."
Sweden has long been committed to gender equality and IKEA's marketing move sparked criticism at home that the company is breaching long held values regarding women's role in society.
Trade Minister Ewa Bjorling told the Metro newspaper "It's impossible to retouch women out of reality." Sweden's European Union Minister Birgitta Ohlsson, apparently branded the incident as "medieval" in Swedish tweet.
Saudi Arabia is a religiously conservative kingdom where women can't drive and need the permission of a male guardian to work or travel. When in public, women are required to cover their hair and wear a loose flowing robe called an abaya.
It is also common for Saudi censors to black out magazine pages showing women's arms and legs, essentially using a permanent marker to add an abaya to models.
The story sparked mixed reactions on social media ranging from outrage to lack of surprise...
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