Soap ad on women’s rights in Pakistan sparks row

An international detergent brand has come under fire for an advertisement questioning gender stereotypes in the conservative patriarchal country, with critics denouncing the company for allegedly insulting Islam.

The commercial for Ariel soap calls for women to break free of conservatives norms and pursue careers.

In the ad, several women representing different professions — including a journalist and doctor — are seen pushing dirty sheets hanging on a clothesline off the screen.

The sheets are printed with common refrains used to reinforce the oppression of women in Pakistan, including the question “What will people say?”, which heralds scandal every time a woman chooses to challenge gender norms. It ends with a close-up shot of the Pakistan women’s cricket team captain Bismah Maroof saying: “Stay within the house… these are not only sentences but stains”.

Social media was abuzz on the issue, with conservatives lambasting its message using the hashtag “#BoycottAriel” on Twitter.

“They (are) insulting Islamic teaching in their advertising,” wrote Binte Suleman on Twitter. Others called for regulators to have the commercial officially censored and removed.

Critics filed a legal petition against the ad.


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