Critics in Egypt say Citroën ad encourages sexual harassment


French automaker ad sparked controversy in Egypt after activists said it encouraged sexual harassment in a country where the practice is endemic

CAIRO – An advertisement from a French car maker sparked controversy in Egypt after activists said it encouraged sexual harassment in a country where the practice is endemic.

Citroën’s Egyptian branch ad, released last month, shows popular Egyptian singer and actor Amr Diab driving the company’s latest version of the C4, before stopping abruptly in front of a woman crossing the street.

Diab looks at the woman and takes a photo of her from a camera in the rearview mirror of the car. The singer is seen smiling as the image of the woman appears on his phone. The two are then seen together as if they were on a date.

Although apparently intended to showcase the car’s camera, the ad drew criticism against the automaker and the 60-year-old singer, who is seen as a role model for many across the Arab world.

Under pressure from the online backlash, Citroën Egypt apologized and removed the 100-second ad.

“We deeply regret and understand the negative interpretation of this part of this film. Together with our business partner in Egypt, we have made the decision to remove this advertisement from all Citroën channels and we offer our sincere apologies to all communities offended by this film, ”he said in a statement.

There has been no comment from Diab, who still has the video on his social media accounts with tens of millions of followers.

Sexual harassment, mostly ranging from whistling to occasional pinching or grabbing, is rampant in Egypt, a conservative Muslim country with more than 100 million people.

Speak Up, an Egyptian feminist initiative, called the announcement “frightening” and said it encouraged “casually photographing girls on the streets without their consent just because he likes them.”

“Anything can be a double-edged sword. In this ad, @Citroen #Egypt chose to show off the negative aspects of their C4’s new features, from invading people’s privacy to harassing girls on the streets! #MeToo, ”said a user named The Lady in a Twitter post.

Feminist Sabah Khodir has attacked the automaker, accusing it of exploiting women’s struggle against gender-based violence “as an opportunity to sell vehicles”.

She asked Hany Shaker, head of the Union of Egyptian Musicians, to launch an investigation into Diab’s involvement in the ad.

“I wonder what Hany Shaker … thinks about Amr Diab promoting sexual harassment in the new @citroen ad, or isn’t it against the cultural values ​​of Egypt?” she said in an Instagram post.

The scale of the problem of sexual harassment and violence in Egypt was revealed in the years following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, when mass rapes and sexual assaults took hold. took place during several demonstrations.

A 2017 poll conducted by UN Women and Promundo, a non-governmental organization, found that nearly 60% of Egyptian women report having been sexually harassed, and nearly 65% ​​of men admit to harassing women, although they admit. mainly having ogleed.

In recent years, organized civil society efforts to combat the phenomenon have encouraged women to speak out more openly, despite the insistence from much of society that it does not exist. Many women, inspired by the #MeToo movement, have also expressed themselves on social networks about this practice.

The authorities have increased the penalties for sexual harassment in its penal code, making the practice a crime of up to five years in prison.

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