Ikea under fire for airbrushing women out of Saudi catalogue

3 Oct

Ikea has been heavily criticised in its home market Sweden after it airbrushed women out of its latest catalogue in Saudi Arabia.

The furniture retailer said it regretted removing the women from pictures in the annual booklet, which otherwise looks roughly the same in all its markets. The pictures included one of a woman in pyjamas in front of a bathroom mirror, and one of Ikea’s female designers.

“It is not the local franchisee that has requested the retouch of the discussed pictures,” the franchiser Inter Ikea Group said. “We will naturally review our routines and working process to ensure that this will not happen again.”

Sweden’s gender equality minister, Nyamko Sabuni, said companies needed to stick to their principles abroad. “And if there is any country in the world that needs to know Ikea’s values, it is Saudi Arabia. Therefore it is a pity that it is there they choose to abandon part of their values, in this case equality,” she told the TT news agency.

The European Union minister, Birgitta Ohlsson, called the move “medieval”. The trade minister, Ewa Björling, said: “If Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow women to be seen, heard or to work, they lose out on half of their intellectual capital. This shows they still have a long way to go to reach equality between women and men in Saudi Arabia.”

A spokeswoman at Ikea Group, which produces the catalogues, said Ikea had airbrushed women out of several Saudi catalogues since its first store opening there in the 1980s. In a statement, the group said excluding women from the Saudi version of the catalogue was not in line with its values.

Ikea has 338 stores around the world, of which 40 are run by external franchisees. Al Sulaiman, which runs the three Ikea stores in Saudi Arabia, was not immediately available for comment.


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