Padded bikinis for seven-year-old girls? Really?

If you haven't had your daily dose of thank-God-that-stupidity-is-over, try this on for size: Primark, a UK department store, has caved under intense pressure from tabloids, watchdog groups, and even Prime Minister Gordon Brown, ridding their shelves of padded bikini tops designed for seven- and eight-year-old girls.

Echoing a sentiment ringing through many adult minds, Lynne Featherstone, the UK's Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for equality, asked: "How on earth could they have thought that this was a good idea in the first place?"

While there's no easy answer to that question, the truth is that someone, or rather, many someones-from the clothing designers, to the fabricators, to the department store buyers-decided that getting prepubescent girls to look busty was a good thing.

Thank God someone else-namely the outraged parents of the online forum, Mumsnet-mobilized to launch the "Let Girls Be Girls" campaign, which details the reasons to be "worried by this trend" for the thickheaded among us:

· It introduces children to the world of adult sexuality, when elsewhere we are rightly encouraging them to resist the pressure to become sexually active at a young age

· It tells girls that the most important quality they need is 'sexiness' and that female sexuality is all about pleasing others

· It encourages a culture in which children are viewed as sexually available

Primark's response has been swift--the company apologized to customers for "causing offense" and said it would donate profits to a children's charity. Shockingly though, it's not the only department store to suffer from enormous misjudgment in this area. Recent chain store scandals in the UK include department store Asda selling black lace push up bras for nine year olds, WH Smith pushing Playboy bunny stationary for kids, and Tesco hawking…wait for it…a pole dancing kit in its toys and games section.

Honestly, what will these clowns think up next? Dominatrix wear for babies?