Ikea drops women from Arab brochure
Furniture store giant Ikea has been criticised for deleting images of women from the Saudi version of its catalogue, a move the company says it regrets.
Comparing the Swedish and Saudi versions of the Ikea catalogue, Swedish newspaper Metro showed that women had been airbrushed out of otherwise identical pictures showcasing the company's home furnishings.
The report raised questions in Sweden about Ikea's commitment to gender equality. The country's trade minister Ewa Bjorling did not criticise Ikea directly but told Metro that it was not possible to delete women from society.
Ikea said: "We should have reacted and realised that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the Ikea group values."
Women appear only infrequently in Saudi-run advertising, mostly on Saudi-owned TV channels that show women in long dresses, scarves covering their hair and long sleeves. In imported magazines, censors black out many parts of a woman's body including arms, legs and chest.
When Starbucks opened its coffee shops in the kingdom, it removed the alluring, long-haired woman from its logo, keeping only her crown.
Ikea's Saudi catalogue, which is also available online, looks the same as other editions of the publication, except for the absence of women.
One picture shows a family apparently getting ready for bed, with a young boy brushing his teeth in the bathroom. However, a pyjama-clad woman standing next to the boy is missing from the Saudi version. Another picture of a five women dining has been removed altogether in the Saudi edition.
Swedish equality minister Nyamko Sabuni said Ikea was a private company that made its own decisions, but added that it also projects an image of Sweden around the world.
"For Ikea to remove an important part of Sweden's image and an important part of its values in a country that more than any other needs to know about about Ikea's principles and values - that's completely wrong," she said.