Swedes slam IKEA for its female-free Saudi catalogue

Tue Oct 2, 2012 12:19pm EDT
 
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By Anna Ringstrom

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - IKEA, the world's biggest furniture retailer, has come under heavy criticism in its home market Sweden after it airbrushed women out of its latest catalogue in Saudi Arabia, raising questions about its policies towards gender equality.

IKEA, famous for budget furniture in self-build flat packs and huge stores, said it regretted removing the women from pictures in the annual booklet which otherwise looks roughly the same in all its markets.

The women removed from pictures in the catalogue for the conservative Islamic kingdom included one 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," IKEA franchisor Inter IKEA Group B.V. said in a statement late on Monday. "We will naturally review our routines and working process, to ensure that this will not happen again."

Currently, franchises have the final say on the production of the catalogues, including pictures, Inter IKEA Systems spokeswoman Ulrika Englesson Sandman said.

Swedish Gender Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni criticised the airbrushing, saying that companies needed to stick to their principles also 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 news agency TT.

Women in Saudi Arabia are barred from driving and must have the consent of a male "guardian" to travel abroad, work or have some types of elective surgery.   Continued...

 
A person holds a copy of the Metro daily newspaper in Stockholm October 1, 2012, with its front page comparing images for the IKEA catalogues in Sweden (L) and Saudi Arabia (R) for next year. The Saudi version of the the otherwise identical photos, does not show a women. REUTERS/Henrik Montgomery/Scanpix/Files