An Indian advertising agency, JWP, used by car manufacturer Ford has apologised for releasing images of women bound and gagged in the boot of a Ford Figo.
In one of the cartoons, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is depicted making the peace sign, with three women in the boot of his car alongside the slogan “Leave your worries behind with the Figo’s extra-large boot”.
Another image released by the agency shows a caricature of Paris Hilton smiling, while American TV reality stars the Kardashians are gagged and bound in the back of the Figo.
The images, which were uploaded by the agency to a creative blog website ‘Ads of the World’, were never meant for commercial use, but their release has caused a storm of criticism from women’s rights groups and the general public.
The WWP group, of which JWP is a subsidiary, released this statement to Business Insider: “We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within WPP Group. These were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the internet.”
Ford also apologised saying: “We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened.”
The timing of the incident is particularly shocking in the light of recent media coverage of sex-crimes in India, and in particular two gang-rapes, one of a Swiss tourist earlier this year and another sex attack on a young Indian woman, in 2012, who died after the attack.
A leading Indian women’s rights campaigner, Dr Ranjana Kumari, responded to the images via The Telegraph newspaper, saying: “They’re comparing women with baggage… And it is at a time when Indian society is searching for respect and bodily integrity [for women] after the December 16 (gang-rape). It makes it harder to change men’s attitudes to women. You don’t do this when a whole nation is angry about rapes.”
This week India passed a new law that makes stalking, voyeurism and acid-attacks a crime. The law increases the penalty for repeat rape offenders or for rape attacks that lead to the victim’s death, making the minimum 20 years imprisonment. It also allows for the death penalty to be applied in these cases.
Although many welcomed the new laws as a huge advancement, Ananth Guruswamy, Chief Executive of Amnesty International India said the new law is “not nearly enough”. She spoke specifically about the impunity for rape committed by husbands and members of security forces.