Swedish furniture retail chain Ikea on Monday
issued an apology after a newspaper reported that women had been
airbrushed out of catalogues distributed in Saudi Arabia.
Free newspaper Metro showed images of the catalogues and compared them to those distributed in other countries. Many pictures of products were identical but women had been removed in the Saudi version.
"As a producer of the catalogue, we regret the current situation," the retailer said. "We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the Ikea Group values."
A spokeswoman told dpa the Ikea Group was to review its routines and "safeguard a correct content presentation from a values point-of-view" saying the group opposed discrimination.
Women are not allowed to vote or drive in Saudi Arabia, though King Abdullah last year announced a reform which should allow women to vote from 2015.
Swedish Trade Minister Ewa Bjorling refrained from criticizing Ikea outright, but told Metro: "You can't airbrush women from reality."
"These images are yet another lamentable example of how much remains to be done concerning gender equality in Saudi Arabia," she said.
Metro also showed an example where a female model had been replaced by a man and noted that a female designer had been edited out of the Saudi catalogue.
An external franchise owner operates Ikea stores in Saudi Arabia. Franchises are handled by a Dutch-based group, Inter Ikea Systems, while the Ikea Group produces the catalogues.
Ikea operates more than 300 stores in about 40 countries. The catalogue has been published since 1951 and distributed in over 40 countries.
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