A fast food producer in Belgium has apologised after posting an ad on social media showing a man punching a woman for handing him the wrong burger.
Bicky Burger posted the comic-book image on Facebook on Tuesday featuring a man striking a woman with the words: “Serious, a fake Bicky?”
Belgian politicians said the ad was “sickening” and “irresponsible”.
Goodlife Foods, the Dutch food producer behind Bicky Burger, later said it “regretted” the post and deleted it.
“We had no intention of inciting violence,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
Belgium’s Jury of Ethical Advertising (JEP) said it had received hundreds of complaints within hours of the ad appearing on Facebook.
Two politicians responsible for gender equality in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region called on the advertising body to investigate.
Bénédicte Linard, vice-president of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation – a political entity that covers women’s rights, culture and education – said it was “totally irresponsible” to trivialise domestic violence.
She wrote in a tweet that 18,000 domestic violence complaints had been registered with the federation in 2016.
Nawal Ben Hamou, secretary of state for equality in Brussels, posted a message on Facebook describing the ad as “sickening and totally irresponsible” (in French).
“This shows how much we still need to fight violence against women,” she wrote, adding: “This is a priority of the Brussels government. And you can count on my commitment and determination.”
Sarah Schlitz of the Belgian Green party (Ecolo) asked ministers to clarify the powers available to the government in responding to sexist advertising, “both in terms of prevention and in terms of penalties”.
Some Twitter users also used the controversy to highlight the issue of domestic violence in Belgium, while others posted messages calling for consumers to boycott the brand.
Later on Wednesday, Bicky Burger posted on Facebook in both French and Dutch: “We want to apologise to all the people who were offended by our post yesterday.”