Restaurants in Saudi Arabia are no longer required to separate entrances for women and families, and men. According to a government announcement, the practice of segregating restaurant entrances for men and women is now no longer required. Earlier, it was compulsory to have one entrance for families and women, and a different entrance for men on their own. However, this restriction was already not being followed in many restaurants, cafes which did not enforce segregation. With the new announcement, this has been officially legalised.
Saudi Arabia Loosening Up
The segregation change is a part of the kingdom’s relaxation of social rules. It was announced in a statement from the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs. However, the statement did not say whether these changes extended to inside the restaurants. Presently, the seating in restaurants is segregated in the same way as the entrances. So, single men do not sit in the same area as single women and families. In most public spaces in Saudi Arabia, unrelated men and women do not interact.
Earlier, it was compulsory to have one entrance for families and women, and a different entrance for men on their own.
The statement also said that the changes are not compulsory. This means that the owner of the restaurant could still segregate by gender if they chose to do so.
The move is supposed to signify that Saudi Arabia is loosening up socially. As the Middle East’s largest economy, it is trying to wean itself from oil revenue. Throughout years, Saudi Arabia has seen strict gender separation in public places. In 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced a shift toward moderate Islam. He said that modernising the country was his plan of action. The decision to remove segregation at restaurant entrances is only a part of a series of moves to socially modernise the conservative country.
There was no announcement of changes to other public establishments. School and hospitals are also segregated and no change has been made to their rules.
Other Such Moves
Saudi Arabia has also implemented other such moves to modernise the oil-rich kingdom. In the last few years, the country has been taking several steps that seem to be liberating women.
In October of this year, Saudi Arabia announced that Saudi women were now allowed to join armed forces. Earlier this year, a royal decree allowed women in Saudi Arabia to travel abroad without a male guardian’s permission. The nation also adopted an Equality For Women Motto for Haj 2019. Last year, the Gulf kingdom ended a decades-long ban on female drivers, allowing women to drive. In August, Saudi women were also allowed to apply for their passport without male consent. Another move allowed them to start a business without a male guardian. All of these steps seem to work for women’s empowerment in the highly conservative country.
In 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced a shift toward moderate Islam. He said that modernising the country was his plan of action. The decision to remove segregation at restaurant entrances is only a part of a series of moves to socially modernise the conservative country.
However, these moves that aim at social openness have also been followed by arrests of intellectuals and activists, including women who had campaigned for some of the freedoms that have lately been granted. It has also raised concerns about the possibility of conservative backlash but there has not been much concrete backlash.
Picture Credit: BBC
Prapti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV