Africa: Heineken suspends use of beer girls

After allegations of sexual harassment from customers Heineken suspended the use of promotional models in Mozambique. The so-called beer girls were often sexual targets of drunken customers and the female staff had little help from the brewer in preventing this.

An independent research by Partner Africa showed that 13 sales staff complained of sexual abuse from customers in Mozambique and there were ‘revealing short skirts’ in three countries, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda. The girls are usually employed by third party agencies. They are required to go to bars and restaurants in the night, encouraging the mostly male customers to drink beer. This includes drinking beer themselves.

In March this year Dutch journalist Olivier van Beemen already made public the dangerous working conditions of the beer girls working for Heineken in Africa. In his new book Heineken in Africa. A Multinational Unleashed, which will be published this year, he accuses the beer giant to do little against sexual harassment and pressure to prostitute in the last ten to fifteen years, since the allegations became first known.

Already in 2007 an intern research showed that Heineken had at that time about 15,000 female promoters for their beers in more than 100 countries. 70% of those countries with nearly all African Heineken markets included were classified as “risk-countries” for sexual abuse, underpayment, compulsory drinking or provocative uniforms.

Heineken is not the only brewery to use promotional models. During the Football World Cup 2010 Bavaria Beer, also from Holland, sent 36 good-looking blonde Dutch girls in orange dresses to the stadium in a match of the Dutch national team. However, the young women were arrested and FIFA accused them the of staging an ambush marketing campaign against Budweiser, one of the main sponsors of the event.

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