Rebecca Kamm
Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: Ad space sold on girls' thighs

Girls in Japan are paid to wear short skirts and stick ads to their thighs.Photo / ITN
Girls in Japan are paid to wear short skirts and stick ads to their thighs.Photo / ITN

Welcome to your Global Women's News Roundup.

Today we begin in Tokyo, Japan, where a person has had a brainchild in the shape of young girls' thighs. As in, he's selling ad-space on there. On the thighs! Of young girls!

Why? Because Tokyo is so saturated with marketing that getting eyeballs on ads has become a huge challenge. Fortunately for PR executive Hidenori Atsumi, no one ever tires of looking at girls' legs - hence the thighvertising. As he told the UK's Metro, "It's an absolutely perfect place to put an advertisement, as it is what guys are eager to look at, and girls are ok to expose."

The Girls Ok To Expose - each of them 18 or older - are paid to mooch around the city for eight hours in mini skirts and long socks. They must also have at least 20 social media connections and be willing to share photos of their own personal thighverts, which seem to be largely for albums and films - like this one for Green Day and this one for "comedy" film Ted.

More than 1300 girls have signed up already and, for obvious reasons, it's bound to work really well. Then various people will pat themselves on the back because they made another bazillion dollars out of women's bodies and I will pray silently to wake up on a different planet.

To northwest Pakistan now, where clerics - as reported by The Times of India - have banned women from shopping unless they're with a male relative, so men won't be distracted in public during the holy month of Ramadan.

The ban, which has the support of the police, was announced over mosque loudspeakers and any woman found breaking it will be arrested. Interestingly, it was proposed by a faction of the religious Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, which generally underperforms in elections. But mainstream politicians don't like disagreeing with religious leaders in case they're "targeted" by said leaders' supporters, therefore they do what they're told.

Pakistan ranks 134th out of 135 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index (only Yemen is worse) and every year thousands of women in its deeply patriarchal rural folds are murdered for "improper" behaviour.

Overall, the regions' women are also 90 per cent illiterate, frequently forbidden from seeing male doctors, and have sole responsibility for every facet of domestic life despite more than 60 per cent also working in the fields. Secondary school generally doesn't exist for girls, and the suicide rate is high among young women, who are frequently married off to older relatives.

There have been attempts by global organisations such as the UN's Development Programme to empower rural Pakistani women through trade-oriented schemes like veterinary training, via which women become "Lady Livestock Workers". The Canadian government runs a similar scheme, whereby women are paid fairly as road crew workers and receive a cell phone, bank card and health card.

Among local organisations is violence prevention group Aware Girls, set up eight years ago by a 16-year-old girl from Peshawar; the Women's Empowerment Group, which brings together professionals to educate rural women at a grassroots level; and the Society for Appraisal & Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA).

If you're keen to help out, you can purchase a year's education for a woman in Pakistan's tribal regions through SAWERA. The programme was established in honour of Farida Afridi, a 25-year-old Pakistani women's rights activist murdered in the Taliban bastion of Peshawar last year on her way to work.

And finally, to Saudi Arabia, where women's rights activist Manal al-Sharif filmed herself driving, uploaded the footage to YouTube, and was promptly arrested. That was in 2011, but she's just given a TED Talk about the experience, and the resultant "split" that deemed her a hero outside her country and a traitor within it.

Manal was eventually released on bail on the condition she would never drive again or talk to the media. The ban on women driving isn't legislated in Saudi Arabia, but it's rigorously enforced by the authorities, so in practice it's law.

But change is afoot, according to Manal: the monarchy's advisory board now seats 30 women; the traffic police have stated female drivers will only be issued with "violation tickets"; and the Grand Mufti - Saudi Arabia's highest official of religious law - has dampened its stance by announcing it's simply "not recommended" for women to drive.

Which might sound like excruciatingly tiny baby steps to us Western women, but there you go. As female parliamentary advisor Dr Maha Almuneef told Time some years back, "There are small steps now. There are giant steps coming. But most Saudis have been taught the traditional ways. You can't just change the social order all at once."

Follow Rebecca Kamm on Twitter.

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