The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) of Australia and New Zealand has spoken out against the decisions of Target and Kmart to remove Grand Theft Auto V from shelves in Australia.

"Over the past few decades videogames have taken their place alongside film, literature and television as a medium capable of entertaining all ages, including the ability to sustain complex and mature themes for an adult audience that rival similar works in other media," said the IGEA.

"As a result, IGEA are surprised by the recent removal of a popular R18+ game from retail shelves given the average age of a gamer in this country is 32. Games should not be treated any differently than books, music, television, or movies that are rated R18+. IGEA’s members are proud of their compliance with the National Classification Scheme and believe that consumers, which includes parents and caregivers, should be allowed to make informed decisions for themselves."

This week Kmart and Target both pulled Grand Theft Auto V from their shelves over concerns about acts of violence towards women in the game.

Kmart followed Target, which announced on Wednesday it would pull Grand Theft Auto V from shelves in Australia after receiving a petition signed by more than 43,000 people.

The creators of the petition, who only used their first names, Nicole, Claire and Kat, said they were survivors of sexual violence. They said they felt the game sent a dangerous message.

In New Zealand, The Warehouse and Noel Leeming have also decided to stop stocking R18 products.

Yesterday evening, Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Rockstar parent company Take-Two Interactive, issued a statement responding to the retailers' decision to withdraw the game from sale in Australia:

“We are disappointed that an Australian retailer has chosen no longer to sell Grand Theft Auto V – a title that has won extraordinary critical acclaim and has been enjoyed by tens of millions of consumers around the world.

Grand Theft Auto V explores mature themes and content similar to those found in many other popular and groundbreaking entertainment properties. Interactive entertainment is today’s most compelling art form and shares the same creative freedom as books, television, and movies. I stand behind our products, the people who create them, and the consumers who play them.”