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Malaysian beauty elixir advert under fire for 'promoting domestic abuse of dark-skinned, overweight women' Open in fullscreen

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Malaysian beauty elixir advert under fire for 'promoting domestic abuse of dark-skinned, overweight women'

Skin-whitening products are popular in Asia and the Middle East [Facebook]

Date of publication: 18 October, 2017

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A Malaysian cosmetic company has come under fire for an advert that critics have said promotes domestic violence against women with dark skin and larger bodies.

A Malaysian cosmetic company has come under fire for an advert that critics have said promotes domestic violence against women with dark skin and larger bodies.

Phytorich Global Malaysia released its promotional campaign for "SlimmeWhite Dual Effect" on social media late last month, prompting a storm of criticism.

The company markets the herbal drink, which is made from tropical plants and fruit, as an elixir that whitens skin and helps with weight loss.

The four-minute ad details a marital relationship that goes sour after an initially affectionate husband becomes abusive towards his wife over her appearance and cooking skills.

The husband divorces the young woman and throws her out onto the streets, she then seeks refuge with her sister, who gives her a bottle of the tonic to consume.

A month later, the man sees a skinnier, paler version of his wife in the street and pleads for her to take him back - a request she swiftly refuses.

The video, which is subtitled in English, has since gained traction in the country, garnering over two million views, with many condemning its message as misogynistic.

Malaysia's Women's Aid Organisation has slammed the ad, arguing it justifies domestic violence by implying women with darker skin deserve abuse.

"WAO is appalled by the recent Slimme White ad, which suggests that what domestic violence survivors need is a beauty product that makes them thinner and whiter," WAO communications officer said.

"Such ads are incredibly damaging because it implies that women who look a certain way deserve abuse, and that their husbands have a right to abuse them," she said in a statement.

Skin-whitening products are popular in Asia and the Middle East, where many consumers believe having fairer skin is a sign of beauty.

In statements to The New Arab, a spokesperson for Phytorich Global Malaysia argued that its advertisement has been misunderstood.

"What most of the English speaking audience has missed is our message at the end of the video, which was not translated," the spokesperson said.

The text at the end urges husbands to love their wives and not to treat them badly over perceived shortcomings.

"Another aspect non-Muslim viewers have misunderstood is that the husband has divorced his wife with the triple talaq, meaning there is no way she can marry him again unless she marries someone else first," the spokesperson explained.

"So in the final scene she is clearly not trying to get back her husband's attention," they added.

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