September 24, 2014

The Philippines’ largest mall operator said on Tuesday that a T-shirt promoting rape as a “snuggle with a struggle” had been removed from its racks, after a photo of the offensive garment went viral.

“We have immediately pulled out all the T-shirts of the consignor that distributes them, and we are investigating why it was included in our delivery of assorted t-shirts,” said SM Supermalls, which owns 49 malls in the Philippines, in a statement posted to Twitter and Facebook.

The retail juggernaut did not say who the distributor was.

On Monday, Facebook user Karen Kunawicz posted to her page a photo of the brown shirt, seen in an SM Supermall.

The garment read: “It’s not rape. It’s a snuggle with a struggle” and showed two hands forming a heart. The shirt was in the teen boys’ section of a department store, Kunawicz said.

“Really SM Department Store?” she wrote. “Boys listen to Tita [Aunty] Karen — if a girl says NO and pushes you away, just err on the side of caution, she likely means NO.”

On Tuesday night, the photo had been shared more than 4,000 times on Facebook. The South China Morning Post also tweeted an image of the shirt.

SM said in its statement that the shirt has “a message that we too find unacceptable.”

“SM does not support such irresponsible and malicious acts that mock important and sensitive social issues,” it said.

On Facebook, commenters on the original photo sharply criticized the department store for seeking to “hide behind [its] consignment agreements,” as one commenter put it, and called on the store to make donations to women’s crisis centers.

In 2013, the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center recorded 5,493 reported rapes of women and children — a record high for the nation, according to GMA News Online. Another police division, the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, tallied 7,409 reported rape incidents, GMA says.

Write to Elizabeth Barber at elizabeth.barber@timeasia.com.

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