Shell Malaysia has pulled the life-sized cardboard cutouts of a female employee from stations, following recent reports of "sexual harassment". The issue has received much attention locally, and also spread on a global level, with international news outlet BBC catching wind of the issue.
This decision was made after offensive images of men "abusing" the cutout went viral online. These images have angered netizens who many of them accused the men of being sexist, improper, as well as, obscene. With a simple search on the internet and social media platforms, one will find photos of various men kissing her face, pinching her nose and even touching her inappropriately.
The ad in question featured 25 years old Nor Shafila Khairusalleh, the manager of a Shell station in Perak who expressed feeling humiliated even though the men were understandably just "messing around", she first told mStar, The Star's Malay portal on Sunday.
Khairusalleh did not expect to attract such behaviour on the "standees" of herself, adding she could accept if the men were just placing their hands over the eyes, pulling at the nose or hugging the cutout, but not when those acts suggested sexual behaviour.
The oil giant which operates more than 950 outlets in Malaysia responded quickly on this matter. In a statement to A+M, the company has called the acts disrespectful and against the local culture. It's also urging the public to stop sharing these images which it described as "distasteful" with "suggestive acts".
"We do not condone this disrespectful act, which is completely against the culture of Malaysians and Shell’s core values," the oil and gas company said, adding the cutouts will be removed from all its sites with immediate effect.
Khairusalleh became well-known after a cutout of herself holding a mineral water bottle went viral on social media. This has prompted Shell to showcase her in human-sized cutouts promoting its fuel in the country.
With the ongoing saga, one man who was heavily criticised over his photo kissing the cardboard cutout has apologised via his Facebook and YouTube post.
"I also wish to apologise to her husband and family members over this incident," he said in a video below, while admitting he has gone overboard with his "stupid joke" which was only shared in a private Whatsapp group with friends, but somehow ended up on social media.