Saudi Shops Ordered To Build Walls Separating Men From Women

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Saudi women shopping
Saudi authorities have ordered shops employing both men and women to build separation walls to enforce the strict segregation laws of the ultra-conservative kingdom, local press reported on Monday.

Labour minister Adel Faqih issued the order which also had the stamp of Abdul Latif Al Shaikh, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, commonly known as Mutawa and religious police, several dailies reported.

The order stipulated that a separation barrier, not shorter than 1.6 metres, should be erected to divide working men and women.

Authorities in June 2011 told lingerie shops to replace their salesmen, mostly Asian, with Saudi saleswomen. This directive was later extended to cosmetic outlets.

Saudi women have long complained they feel uncomfortable having to buy lingerie from men and would prefer female sales assistants.

In December, the head of the religious police strongly criticised the labour ministry, claiming that saleswomen do not have a proper working environment and that some have been harassed.

The labour ministry had said the decision to employ women at lingerie shops should create some 44,000 jobs for Saudi women, among whom unemployment is more than 30 per cent, according to official figures. [GN]

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