Saudi Arabia Removes Requirement by Restaurants for Singles, Families Entrance

Elias Hubbard
December 9, 2019

Eateries have long required one entrance for single men and another for women and families, in a country where the once-powerful religious police zealously enforced sex segregation in public places for decades.

This is part of what the conservative Muslim country has traditionally viewed as a requirement in line with religion, although other Muslim-majority countries do not have similar restrictions.

There were no announcements of changes in other public facilities, such as schools and hospitals, which appear to be segregated for now.

It cited a desire to attract investments and greater business opportunities as a reason for the decision, in a statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Previously, it was mandatory to have one entrance for families and women, and another for men on their own.

Earlier this year, a royal decree allowed Saudi women to travel overseas without a male guardian's permission, and in 2018 the Gulf kingdom ended a decades-long ban on female drivers.

Since Mohammed bin Salman was elevated to crown prince in 2017, he has made moves to open up Saudi Arabia's extremely conservative society. Many also have separate entrances for women and partitions or rooms for families where women are not visible to single men.

Restaurants in Saudi Arabia will no longer need to maintain entrances segregated by sex, the authorities said on Sunday, further eroding some of the world's strictest social rules as sweeping reforms take hold.

Prince Mohammed has clipped the powers of hardline clerics as he pursues a modernisation drive that has allowed mixed-gender music concerts and ended decades-long bans on cinemas and women drivers.

In August, the kingdom lifted a controversial ban on travel by allowing all citizens - women and men alike - to apply for a passport and travel freely, ending a long-standing guardianship policy that had controlled women's freedom of movement.

A spokesman for the ministry contacted by Reuters did not specify whether segregated seating areas inside restaurants would also be eliminated.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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