Critics of the Citroën ad say it promotes sexual harassment

CAIRO (AP) – An ad from a French carmaker has caused controversy in Egypt after activists said it promoted …

CAIRO (AP) – An advertisement from a French carmaker has caused controversy in Egypt, after activists said the foreign sexual harassment in a country where the practice is widespread.

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

Diab looks at the woman and takes a picture of her from a camera attached to the car’s rearview mirror. The singer is seen smiling as the woman’s picture is displayed on his phone. Both are then seen together as on a date.

Although apparently intended to have the car’s camera, the ad has drawn criticism from the carmaker 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 offered an apology and removed the ad in 100 seconds.

“We deeply regret and understand the negative interpretation of this part of this film. Together with our business partner in Egypt, we made the decision to withdraw this advertisement from all Citroën’s channels and we extend our sincere apologies to all the offended communities over this film, “it says in a statement.

There was no comment from Diab, which still has the video on its social media accounts with tens of thousands of followers.

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

Speak Up, an Egyptian feminist initiative, called the addition “creepy” and said the stranger was “photographing girls casually on the street without their consent, just because he likes them.”

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

Feminist Sabah Khodir slammed the carmaker, accusing it of exploiting women’s fight against gender-based violence “as an opportunity to sell vehicles.”

She urged Hany Shaker, head of the Egyptian Musician’s Union, to launch a study into Diab’s participation in the ad.

“I wonder what Hany Shaker… thinks about Amr Diab promoting sexual harassment in the new @ citroen commercial, or is it not against Egypt’s cultural values?” she said in an Instagram post.

The scale of Egypt’s sexual harassment and violence problem emerged in the years following the popular uprising in 2011 that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak when mass rape and sexual assault took place during numerous protests.

A 2017 poll conducted by UN Women and Promundo, a non-governmental organization, showed that almost 60% of Egyptian women say they have been sexually harassed, and almost 65% of men acknowledge harassment of women, although they mainly admitted to staring.

In recent years, organized efforts by civil society to combat the phenomenon have encouraged women to be more candid about it, despite the fact that a large sector of society insists that it does not exist. Many women, inspired by the #MeToo movement, also spoke out on social media about the practice.

Authorities have tightened the penalties for sexual harassment in its penal code, making the practice a crime with up to five years in prison.

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