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Ikea’s Saudi Arabia catalog erases women; company expresses regret

By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times –

The Ikea catalog distributed in Saudi Arabia is the same as in other countries except for what it’s missing — women.

The Swedish publication Metro has posted a comparison of the Saudi Arabian mailer and the Swedish version, showing that women present in the latter were missing from the former.

In one instance, a pajama-clad woman — shown standing at a bathroom sink along with a man, young boy and toddler nearby — was erased from the catalog distributed in the Arab nation, leaving just the three other people in the picture.

Saudi Arabia has been criticized for its treatment of women, who are not allowed to travel or study without male permission, and are expected to avoid driving.

Ikea Group, based in Sweden and the Netherlands, issued a statement saying the altered catalog clashes with its values. The statement said the company supports “the fundamental human rights of all people” and does “not accept any kind of discrimination.”

Ikea Saudi Arabia, the statement said, is run by a franchisee outside the Ikea Group.

“As a producer of the catalog, we regret the current situation,” Ikea Group said. “We should have reacted to the exclusion of women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog since it does not align with the IKEA Group values.”

The company continued: “We are now reviewing our routines to safeguard a correct content presentation from a values point of view in the different versions of the IKEA Catalog worldwide.”

In Ikea Group’s annual report for 2011, the company notes that societal changes, including “equal opportunities and revolutionary approaches to ensure the rights and protection of women and children,” have shaped its products and values.

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