Driving down any highway in Malaysia, chances are you will be passing by a billboard or two. While billboards sightings might not be anything special, the advertisement they put up might tell a different story.
A couple of advertising boards was put up earlier this month (3rd December to be exact), which raised quite a ruckus for promoting a very unusual service. The service in question was for the app Sugarbook, which is an online dating app that connect sugar babies to wealthy benefactors. Needless to say, not many people were pleased with the advertisement.
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As you may know, sugar babies are usually young and attractive people that receive financial or material benefits in exchange for accompanying wealthy and usually older individuals called sugar daddies or sugar mommies. This transactional usually includes sex and other form of intimacy. Hence, you can see why the app did not bode well with many Malaysians who are quite conservative.
Locals first took notice of the advertisement board in both Bangsar and Bukit Kiara, with the former being uneasily close to a local mosque. According to a statement made by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL), the adverts didn’t received any approval from authorities. Even the owner of the billboard, Yayasan Wilayah Perseketuan (YWP), was not informed by the advertisement space operator, Out Of Home.
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The sign boards have since been ordered to be taken down by Kuala Lumpur City Hall, on the basis that it was deemed inappropriate for Malaysian audiences. The adverts were then removed on 17th December 2019, between 7:30pm to 10pm.
Sugarbook founder and CEO, Darren Chan, has also spoken out regarding the incident. He wrote in a Facebook post, “We hope you understand that we built Sugarbook to empower women by giving them a dating platform to choose freely what they want in an ideal relationship, without being scrutinized.”
He added that, “Women empowerment is about elevating women by increasing the capacity for them to be able to choose freely. The keyword here is “choice” and Sugarbook is about providing our people that precise choice.”
He continued, “Sugar Babies are not illegal sex workers. They do not trade their bodies for monetary value. They are real people from all walks of life, e.g. struggling single mothers, housewives, widows, and divorcees.”
After receiving a ton of backlash, Chan pleaded, “While we believe the public’s intentions are good, it would be unjust to have us banned. Ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the freedoms and liberty of the Malaysian people.”
So, do you agree with Chan’s sentiment on freedom of expression and women empowerment or do you think he could have done it in a better way? Let’s us know your opinion in the comment section below.