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Women erased from Saudi IKEA catalogue

posted 2 Oct 2012, 05:29 by Mpelembe   [ updated 2 Oct 2012, 05:30 ]

Furniture giant IKEA comes under severe criticism in Sweden after it erases women from its Saudi Arabia catalogue.

Swedish furniture retailer IKEA faced a storm of criticism on Monday (October 1) after media reports revealed it had removed all women from the Saudi version of the company's catalogue.
The catalogue, which is printed in several languages, is generally identical. But in the Saudi version, the women - even a designer featured on one page - have been removed via photo retouching.

The move has drawn a lot of criticism from politicians of all parties and from IKEA shoppers alike.

"I simply think it's silly. We exist in a society with women and men and you can't just remove women. I think it's very silly. I'm Arab, I'm Muslim but I simply think women exist in society and should take part," said IKEA shopper Sara Altawil.

Fellow shopper Anki Larsson said IKEA should have decided not to publish the catalogue in Saudi Arabia.

"I think it's horrible and I think IKEA should have put their foot down and said that in that case, leave it (don't publish a Saudi version)," she said.

But Izabell Soderstrom was more unfazed.

"In USA they increase the breast size on women and in Saudi Arabia they remove them," she said.

Swedish Minister for Gender Equality Nyamko Sabuni said women in Saudi Arabia were subjected to "terrible oppression" and said it was sad that IKEA had chosen to remove women from their catalogue.

"All the forces that can contribute to discourage that situation are welcome. IKEA could be such a force and therefore it's extremely sad that IKEA chooses to make the situation of women in Saudi Arabia invisible by removing women from their catalogues," she said.

The criticism prompted an apology from IKEA who said they would be looking over their routines and work practices.

"We believe in diversity, we believe in equal rights so this is not ok," said Ivana Hrdickova who is Head of Communications at IKEA Services.

"We have to look at our routines our work process and we have to ensure that the IKEA catalogue is produced and made in line with IKEA's values regardless of in which market the catalogue will be distributed," she added.

Women in Saudi Arabia are regarded as minors and require the permission of their guardian - father, brother, or husband - to leave the country, receive some kinds of medical treatment or work. They are not allowed to drive and are usually expected to be accompanied by a male chaperone.

"Women exist. They can't remove them from the catalogue or from society. Women exist," Altawil said.