x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Apology over naked robot T-shirts on sale in Dubai

The Mall boutique removes offensive garments from shop floor and says they were 'sent in error'.

DUBAI // A set of T-shirts displaying stick drawings of a naked man and a naked woman were removed from the shop floor in a Dubai Mall boutique yesterday. The shirt's designer, the Spanish label Desigual, released a statement saying: "It appears that the batch of robot T-shirts were sent in error from the head office of Desigual in Spain.

"Desigual Dubai sincerely apologises for any offence that may have been caused to shoppers by the delivery of this particular product." The T-shirt, found in the sale section of Desigual in Gallery Lafayettes, was designed for women and featured a hand-painted image of a man and woman standing next to each other with certain body parts accentuated. "In a cultural sense, the T-shirt is offensive and people should be aware and careful of what they wear," said Theresa Toerien, a South African who has been living in Dubai for the past 11 years.

"There are certain things that are not accepted here, and while people should not be arrested for what they wear, they should also dress sensibly." Dubai has been more stringent in recent months in enforcing public decency laws, with malls posting signs at entrances asking customers to dress appropriately and to respect local culture by not participating in displays of public affection. Last month, Harvey Nichols, the British department store in the Mall of the Emirates, was forced to close for a few hours to remove T-shirts considered obscene after a customer complained to a local radio station.

The T-shirts had the image of a British bulldog standing on top of a UAE flag. Harvey Nichols quickly apologised. Two months ago, an expatriate was jailed for a month before being deported after he was arrested for wearing a Marc Jacob T-shirt depicting a naked Victoria Beckham with the slogan "protect the skin you're in" as part of a cancer-awareness campaign. The man was charged with offending public decency.

And in a case currently before the courts in Abu Dhabi, a European couple have been charged with adultery and consensual dishonour over a greeting kiss. Andrew Baird, an Australia on holiday in Dubai, said he "wouldn't bat an eyelid" if he saw the Desigual T-shirt back home, but added that the Middle East was different. "There should be a government policy or warning to manufacturers on what can and cannot be sold here, because it is unclear," he said.

"At the end of the day, it is the consumer who is buying the product, and it is the consumer who gets arrested, so the manufacturer should know what is and isn't offensive." nsamaha@thenational.ae