Three former sex workers have successfully pressured the Australian retail chain Target to remove the video game Grand Theft Auto V from sale in its stores for its depiction of violence against women.
Target said it made the decision following feedback from its customers, and that the decision will effect its 300 stores across the country.
In a statement on its website, the company claimed to have made the decision following feedback from customers "about the game's depictions of violence against women".
"We've been speaking to many customers over recent days about the game, and there is a significant level of concern about the game's content," Target general manager of corporate affairs Jim Cooper said. "We feel the decision to stop selling GTA5 is in line with the majority view of our customers."
Although Grand Theft Auto V has received criticism for allowing players to assault, kill, and maim women within its game world, it has also received critical acclaim, won awards, and set a record by earning $1 billion in just three days.
The game lets gamers carry out a series of violent crimes in first-person mode in Los Santos, a fabricated city inspired by Los Angeles.
Earlier this year, critics lashed out at the game for allowing mods to edit the game to allow "virtual rape" take place. In the latest version of the game, there is an option for gamers to pay for simulated sex with a prostitute and then get their money back by killing the woman.
Online, there are a series of memes that mock the treatment of women in the bestselling game.
The petition that drove the campaign against Target demanded that the game be removed from stores for "encouraging players to commit sexual violence".
On the its change.org petition page, "women who experienced violence in the sex industry" appealed to the store to "immediately withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale."
Over 40,000 people signed the petition in a few days.
In the description, the petitioners said the game "grooms" a generation of boys to tolerate violence against women, and that it is "fuelling the epidemic of violence experienced by so many girls and women in Australia". It added:
It's a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment. The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get 'health' points.
One of many fan clips on YouTube shows the woman being run down, run over, set alight and, still screaming, repeatedly shot. This misogynistic GTA 5 literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women. It also links sexual arousal and violence.
We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence. It haunts us, and we've been trying to rebuild our lives ever since. Just knowing that women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure – to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm.
This game spreads the idea that certain women exist as scapegoats for male violence. It shows hatred and contempt for women in the sex industry and puts them at greater risk. Women in the industry are 40 times more likely to be murdered by a man than any other group of women.