Saudi Arabia: Women allowed to sit with men in restaurants
Christian Fernsby | ▼ December 9, 2019
Women in Saudi Arabia will no longer need to use separate entrances from men or sit behind partitions at restaurants in the latest measure announced by the government.
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Topics: SAUDI ARABIA WOMEN RESTAURANTS
The decision, which essentially erodes one of the most visible gender segregation restrictions in place, was quietly announced Sunday in a lengthy and technically worded statement by the Municipal and Rural Affairs Ministry.
While some restaurants and cafes in the coastal city of Jeddah and Riyadh’s upscale hotels had already been allowing unrelated men and women to sit freely, the move codifies what has been a sensitive issue in the past among traditional Saudis who view gender segregation as a religious requirement.
Despite that, neighbouring Muslim countries do not have similar rules.
Restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia, including major Western chains like Starbucks, are currently segregated by “family” sections allocated for women who are out on their own or who are accompanied by male relatives, and “singles” sections for just men.
Many also have separate entrances for women and partitions or rooms for families where women are not visible to single men.
In smaller restaurants or cafes with no space for segregation, women are not allowed in.
Reflecting the sensitive nature of this most recent move, the decision to end requirements of segregation in restaurants was announced in a statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
The statement listed a number of newly-approved technical requirements for buildings, schools, stores and sports centers, among others.
The statement noted that the long list of published decisions was aimed at attracting investments and creating greater business opportunities.
Among the regulations announced was “removing a requirement by restaurants to have an entrance for single men and for families.” Couched between a new regulation about the length of a building’s facade and allowing kitchens on upper floors to operate was another critical announcement stating that restaurants no longer need to “specify private spaces” an apparent reference to partitions. ■ What to read next
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