Nearly 200 million copies of Ikea’s forthcoming catalogue will be printed in 27 languages for distribution in 38 countries.
And the catalogues will be nearly identical, save for those printed for distribution in Saudi Arabia, a country where women don’t get to vote, drive cars, or move freely on the streets, the Metro newspaper reported.
In the Saudi version of Ikea’s annual booklet, all the women who appear in images featured in the catalogue in other countries have been removed via photo retouching.
In the Swedish version of the Ikea catalogue, for example, a mother can be seen standing at a sink next to her child in a stylized bathroom.
In the Saudi catalogue, however, there is no mother; the child stands at the sink alone.
In another image, a woman and a little girl who appear to be studying in the Swedish catalogue have been completely removed from the Saudi version, leaving an empty room.
Ikea has even gone so far as to remove from the Saudi version of the catalogue the image of a female designer who helped design the company’s “PS” line of home furnishings.
While refusing to comment on any company specifically, Swedish Minister of Trade Ewa Björling made no secret of how she felt about the images.
“It’s impossible to retouch women out of reality,” she told Metro.
“These images are yet another regrettable example that shows we have a long road ahead when it comes to gender equality in Saudi Arabia.”
Attorney Claes Borgström, who served as Sweden’s gender equality ombudsman between 2000 and 2007 also slammed Ikea’s decision to remove women from the Saudi catalogue.
“I think the Swedish business community should uphold existing ethical principles. You can’t participate in the marketing and selling of goods in a way that discriminates against women in this way,” he told the paper.
According to Borgström, Ikea would be better off “abstaining from the [Saudi] market completely”.
“One can say that [Ikea] is supporting a view of women that we in Sweden distance ourselves from,” Borgström told Metro.