INTERNATIONAL NEWS - Swedish furniture retail chain Ikea's catalogue in Saudi Arabia differs from that in other countries - women have been airbrushed from its pages, free newspaper Metro reported Monday.
The daily showed images of catalogues distributed in Saudi Arabia and other countries displaying identical interiors of kitchens and other products but from which women had been removed in the Saudi version.
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Metro also showed an example where a female model had been replaced by a man and noted that a female designer had been edited out of the Saudi catalogue.
A spokeswoman for Ikea, Ylva Magnusson, told dpa the company has a "clear position concerning gender equality" but that the catalogue had been designed by an external franchise owner that operates Ikea stores in Saudi Arabia. Franchises are handled by a Dutch-based group, Inter Ikea Systems.
Ikea operates more than 300 stores in about 40 countries. The catalogue has been published since 1951 and distributed in over 40 countries.
Source : Sapa