Primark withdraws padded bikini tops for children

Padded bikini tops for young girls were taken off the shelves by Primark today after the high street chain was accused of sexualising children.

Primark acted after calls for a boycott of its stores by an organisation which helps child victims of abuse and following criticism from Conservative leader David Cameron.

A spokesman said: "Primark has taken note of the concern this morning regarding the sale of certain bikini tops for girls, a product line that sells in relatively small quantities.

"The company has stopped the sale of this product line with immediate effect.

"Primark will donate all the profits made from this product line to a children's charity, and apologises to customers for any offence caused."

Child protection consultant Shy Keenan, of The Phoenix Chief Advocates which called for the boycott, welcomed the chain's decision.

"Primark have made a mistake here, but at least they have listened to their customers and taken real steps to put it right, we could not have asked for a better outcome," she said.

Mr Cameron, who branded the sale "disgraceful" in an interview with BBC London Radio earlier, said he was "delighted" the bikini top had been withdrawn from sale.

Mr Cameron, who demanded social responsibility "instead of businesses and media companies encouraging the premature sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood" during his party's manifesto launch yesterday, said: "I am delighted they have taken the decision to withdraw this as we need a more responsible society and that means not just the government playing its role but, as I said at the launch of my manifesto, all of us recognising we are in this together.

"Parents want to protect their children from the commercialisation and sexualisation that can take place in our society.

"Businesses have got to think of their responsibilities. I'm glad Primark has done this."

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for equality, said: "Primark's decision is welcome but how on earth could they have thought that this was a good idea in the first place?

"Young children need our protection and shouldn't be the prey of greedy retailers selling them adult products.

"I will be writing to all the big retailers and asking them to pledge to stamp out this kind of sexualisation of children."

Justine Roberts, founder of the parents online forum Mumsnet, said the withdrawal was "fantastic" news.

"I'm pleased they have taken it off the shelves. It's a shame it was ever put on the shelves in the first place," she said.

Mumsnet recently launched a Let Girls Be Girls campaign to let retailers know that parents do not want their children offered products which "prematurely sexualise" them.

Brands which have signed up include Asda, Boden clothing and Start-rite shoes.

"We have not heard back from Primark yet," she added.

"We hope Primark will join the list."

Ms Roberts said several other large chains are expected to join the campaign and only Next, WHSmith and Fat Face have refused so far.

Ms Roberts said: "It's very clear that parents just don't want to see this stuff on shelves."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown backed the Mumsnet campaign, saying: "All of us as parents can recognise there's something wrong when companies are pushing our kids into acting like little grown-ups when they should be enjoying being children."

Penny Nicholls, director of children and young people at The Children's Society, said: "The Children's Society is glad that Primark has responded to public concern about this serious issue.

"We know from our research that commercial pressures towards premature sexualisation and unprincipled advertising are damaging children's well-being.

"The evidence shows that adults feel children are more materialistic than in past generations, while children themselves feel under pressure to keep up with the latest trends.

"We need a significant change at the heart of society where adults stand up for better values."

Primark is the latest chain to face criticism for selling products deemed too adult for young children.

Asda was criticised for selling lace lingerie, including a push-up bra, aimed at young girls and Tesco withdrew a pole-dancing kit which appeared in its toys section.

WHSmith announced last year that it was withdrawing Playboy stationery, including a pencil case, but refused to say if the decision was due to criticism about the brand being sold to schoolchildren.

Primark, which has 138 UK stores and 38 in Ireland, says on its website: "Every girl wants to look her best and at Primark we make no exception for the younger ladies. All the high fashion trends can be found in our Girlswear section, no matter what age you are."

Following today's decision, Ms Keenan said: "We can't stop paedophilia altogether, but we shouldn't be doing anything to help it either.

"We don't mean lead risk adverse lives, but some of these common sense decisions are just so easy to make, like don't dress children up like grown-up sexy sluts."