The Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) gave the women one month to slim down and said they could return to work when they had achieved an “appropriate appearance.”
“This is the beginning of a plan to apply discipline and regulations designed to restore the beautiful image of all official TV stations,” said Majdi Lasheen, a state television official.
Khadija Khatab – a host of Egypt’s Channel 2 and one of the women taken off air – said the decision was "humiliating and even scandalous."
She told the al-Watan newspaper that she wants people to watch her most recent TV appearances and judge for themselves if her weight is unacceptable.
“It is just an attempt to get rid of the successful [presenters] and retain others who present programmes that have no strong content,” she told the newspaper.
The move has sparked uproar among a number of leading women’s rights groups after it was revealed that no men had been removed from their posts.
The Women's Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness has called on the ERTU to backtrack, claiming the move "violates the constitution" and is a form of violence against women.
Despite the criticism, ERTU sources told the Veto news website
that the decision won't be reversed, but that the women won't have their pay and benefits docked.
Remarkably, discrimination on the basis of weight isn’t illegal in New Zealand, unless it leads to indirect discrimination on one of the 13 grounds protected by the Human Rights Act. For example, if an employee’s disability dictates their weight, it could lead to discrimination claims on the basis of disability.
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Egypt’s state broadcaster is making headlines all over the world today after it suspended eight female presenters for being overweight.