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Transport bosses have been accused of “sexualising” young girls after using an image of a four-year-old in a headscarf for a road safety campaign.
The £2 million campaign, promoted by Transport for London, includes children’s books distributed in nurseries as well as an interactive website.
One character called Razmi, four, is pictured in a hijab despite the fact Muslim women traditionally only wear them from puberty onwards out of modesty.
Gina Khan, an advocate of Islamic women’s equality, told the Times: “You are sexualising a four-year-old girl. It is as simple as that. The reason a female is covered is so men don’t look at her. How can you integrate in society if you have a four-year-old girl wearing a hijab?”
Aisha Ali-Khan, a Muslim feminist campaigner, added: “If you are a Muslim girl and look at these images and see this girl is Muslim and she is wearing a hijab and you aren’t, you will think there’s something wrong with you. It is far too young. You are a child. What are you being modest for?”
Following a backlash from Muslim and women’s equality groups, TfL has apologised and confirmed it will stop using the images.
The campaign, called the Children’s Traffic Club London, focuses on characters from ethnically diverse backgrounds, including a Chinese girl and an Irish boy.
Razmi, who is never seen without a headscarf, is pictured at the home of her friend Maylin and on outings.
Shaista Gohir, chairwoman of the Muslim Women’s Network UK charity, also told The Times: “It’s like trying to get that child to try to grow up far too quickly. A child needs to be treated like a child.”
The Children’s Traffic Club London, a road safety campaign introduced under Boris Johnson in 2015, has reportedly seen more than 66,000 children enrolled across the capital.
A TfL spokesman said: “We apologise for any offence caused by this content and we will not use these designs in future. The Children’s Traffic Club was developed to help reduce casualties on London’s roads by educating pre-school children on basic road safety skills.”
A spokesman for Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “These books were first published under the previous Mayor in 2015 and have not been approved by the current Mayor.”
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