MOSCOW (AFP) - Thousands of Russian women have signed a petition demanding a popular tabloid retract an article that branded women who have relations with foreign football fans during the World Cup as "whores".
Moskovsky Komsomolets, one of Russia's biggest daily tabloids, published the article on Wednesday (June 27) under the headline, "The era of whores: Russian women at the World Cup are bringing shame on themselves and the country".
"We have raised a generation of whores that are ready to spread their legs as soon as they hear a foreign language," wrote the author, Russian-Ukrainian columnist Platon Besedin.
By Friday afternoon, more than 19,000 people had signed an online petition demanding the tabloid apologise and retract the article.
"This text is a direct humiliation of Russian women," the petition launched on the change.org website said.
A widely-shared response to the article was published in the Russian edition of Cosmopolitan magazine.
"A woman and her body is, in the understanding of Russian men, apparently still an object," its author Snezhana Gribatskaya wrote.
For Russian men, she wrote, "sex is a resource that treacherous women have seized and use to blackmail men."
Russian women have said the World Cup has highlighted the country's sexism problem, citing offensive statements in the media, and even by some officials.
Before the competition kicked off in Moscow on June 15, a female Communist Party lawmaker urged women not to have sex with foreign fans.
Russia was sealed off from much of the world during the Soviet Union era and remains a deeply conservative society to this day.
Hundreds of thousands of football fans are visiting Russia for the World Cup, which runs until July 15.