Citroën pulls out Egyptian advert accused of normalising sexual harassment


French car maker Citroen has withdrawn an advertisement in Egypt that social media users accused of normalising sexual harassment, saying it did not tolerate any form of harassment and apologised to all those offended.

The controversial ad featured pop star Amr Diab using his car’s camera to photograph a woman crossing the road, apparently without her consent. They are later seen driving together.

Citroën said it had removed the advertisement after being made aware that a scene highlighting the car’s camera had been perceived as inappropriate.

“Citroën cares for all communities in the countries where we operate and we do not tolerate any form of harassment,” the car manufacturer said in a statement on Thursday.

It added: “We deeply regret and understand the negative interpretation of this part of this film. With our business partner in Egypt, we took the decision to withdraw this commercial from all Citroën channels and we present our sincere apologies to all offended communities by this film.”

Amr Diab has so far not commented on the criticism.

Egyptian-American journalist Reem Abdellatif described it as “creepy”.

“Who thought it would be a good idea to make an ad that enables sexual harassment in a country where 98% of women reported getting harassed at some point in their lives?” she wrote on Twitter.

Writer Amal Alharithi tweeted: “What’s painful about Amr Diab’s advert is that the entire crew did not realise the mistake. No-one in the crew objected to taking pictures of girls in the streets without their consent. This is so sad.”

A comment on Citroën Egypt’s Instagram account warned the company that men watching the advert might mistakenly believe taking an unsolicited photo of a woman could lead to a date, when in fact they could face imprisonment.

In recent years, dozens of women inspired by the #MeToo movement have spoken out on social media about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault in Egypt.

The country’s parliament approved harsher penalties for sexual harassment in July, amending the penal code to make it a felony and increasing the penalty to a minimum of two years in prison instead of six months, alongside a fine of between US$6,370 (£4,740) and US$12,740 (£9,480).

However, Egyptian authorities have been accused of frequently failing to investigate and prosecute men accused of sexual harassment or assault against women and girls.

A UN study in 2013 found that 99.3% of girls and women in Egypt reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime, and that 82.6% did not feel safe or secure in the street. (Source: BBC)