Published: Mon, December 09, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Saudi eliminates gender-segregated entrances for eateries

Saudi eliminates gender-segregated entrances for eateries

In smaller restaurants without space for a separate entrance, segregation of the sexes was maintained by not allowing women in.

Saudi Arabia is ending the requirement that restaurants have two separate entrances: one for families and women and another for unaccompanied men.

Until now, inside restaurants, families and women were usually cut off and separated from men on their own by screens.

The restaurants can also continue to have gender-segregated entrances if they choose to do so, but won't be bound by law any longer, Saudi Arabia's ministry of municipalities and rural affairs said on Twitter.

Restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia, including major Western chains like Starbucks, are now 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.

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For years, the religious police enforced strict gender separation in public places, though its power was curbed in 2016.

The new rules remove restrictions that had been in place, but do not state that restaurants or cafes have to end segregated entrances or seated areas. Government-run schools and most public universities remain segregated, as are most Saudi weddings.

Growing social openness in Saudi Arabia has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent that has seen the arrests of dozens of religious leaders, intellectuals and activists, including women who had campaigned for some of the freedoms that have lately been granted.

It has also raised concerns about a possible backlash by conservatives, though there has so far been little concrete pushback. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had brought the recent reform under the leadership of Mohammed bin Salman, who took over the charge from his father in 2017.

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