Egypt’s state broadcaster has suspended eight female anchors and instructed them to lose weight within a month, leading to an outcry from women’s rights advocates.
The edict was given by the state-run broadcaster Egyptian Radio and Television Union, which said the women could only return to the air if they had an “appropriate appearance,” the BBC reported.
Some of those who were suspended decried the weight-loss edict as “humiliating” and “scandalous.” The Women’s Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness, a women’s rights advocate, called the suspensions “a form of violence against women,” in a Facebook post translated by the BBC.
Khadija Khatab, one of the women who was suspended, said she believes her looks represent the average woman in her country.
“I believe I am an ordinary Egyptian woman who looks normal, and I don’t wear too much makeup,” Khatab said, according to The New York Times.
Khatab said she believes the suspensions are more about her superiors’ fears about the news the women anchors presented than their weight.
“It is just an attempt to get rid of the successful [presenters] and retain others who present programs that have no strong content,” Khatab told newspaper Al Watan, according to Gulf News.
Ironically, Safaa Hegazy, director of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union, is a woman and a former news anchor herself.
Alaa el-Sadani, a commentator at the newspaper Al-Ahram, said she was “sickened by the disgusting and repulsive” appearance of the suspended anchors, The New York Times reported.
And Fatma al-Sharawi, a journalist at Al-Ahram, said she thinks the policy should also be expanded to include local TV stations, according to the BBC.
But eight anchors were getting widespread support on social media, especially outside of Egypt.
Some Egyptian men also supported the suspended women.
Sayyid Hegazy, a journalist and member of the Egyptian parliament who is not related to Safaa Hegazy, asked the Sada al-Balad news website, “Who is an ideal weight in Egypt?”
Hegazy added that a presenter “might be a little overweight, but she is eloquent.”
No plans have been announced to apply a weight standard to Egypt’s male broadcasters.