Swedish furniture retailer IKEA removed images of women from its catalog in Saudi Arabia, prompting an apology from the IKEA Group as well as criticism from the trade minister.
On Monday, Swedish newspaper Metro published images from the Saudi catalog, pointing out that IKEA had photoshopped women out of identical pictures showcasing its furniture.
“As a producer of the catalog, we regret the current situation,” stated the IKEA Group, which produces the magazine for its franchises. “We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog is in conflict with the Ikea Group values.”
These decisions were most likely made to appease Saudi laws, which prohibit woman from showing too much of their body in public.
The trade minister in Sweden, Ewa Bjorling, did not directly criticize IKEA but instead focused on Saudi policies towards women.
“You can’t airbrush women from reality,” she told Metro. “These images are yet another lamentable example of how much remains to be done concerning gender equality in Saudi Arabia.”
Women in Saudi Arabia have limited rights compared to men. Laws forbidding women from voting or driving cars are two of the more prominent examples, although King Abdullah last year promised reforms that should give women the vote as of 2015.