Saudi battle against Barbie escalates with new import ban
The Saudi government has banned imports of female dolls and stuffed animals, giving storeowners three months to clear out any remaining merchandise, reported Al-Riyadh.
Imposed by interior minister Prince Nayef, the restrictions were dispatched to shopkeepers around the country by the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The newspaper did not explain the reasons behind the ban, which could not be confirmed by government officials.
In addition to dolls and plush toys, the ban also forbids importations of non-Islamic religious symbols. It is not clear whether male dolls can still be legally imported.
Saudi Arabia’s religious police took up issue with Barbie dolls, the creation of California-based Mattel, ten years ago, banning her from the Kingdom. The moral watchdog recently declared Barbie a threat to morality, complaining that the revealing clothes of the "Jewish" toy are offensive and insulting to Islam.
Although illegal, Barbie dolls, can be easily found and bought on the black-market, for a price of 100 Saudi riyals ($27) or more.
The Middle East has the most retail outlets for toys per capita than any other part of the world, making it a prime target for retailers, manufacturers and marketers. With one of the youngest populations in the world and a high emphasis on family and children, toy companies are eyeing the region.
The Middle East toy market is estimated to generate one billion dollars annually. The average annual amount spent on toys and video games for a single child in the region is said to be $263, a figure that is second to spending in North America. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)