Saudi women keep moving forward to end segregation

In the past few years Saudi Arabia has been trying to end with many conservative rules that discriminate women. Now, restaurants will no longer be obligated to have separate entrances divided by sex.

Group of saudi women

Group of saudi women. / Photo: Rawpixel - Reference image

The Woman Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez Toro

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Leer en español: Las mujeres sauditas siguen avanzando para terminar con la segregación

On December 8th, as read on BBC, Dr. Majid Bin Abdullah Al Qasab, the Saudi Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs announced in twitter, that some requirements for restaurants were going to be eliminated, including the need for 'an entrance for bachelors and a separate entrance for families', ending with one restriction that has been going on for decades against women in Saudi Arabia.

Even though many restaurants had already decided to ease the practice quietly, this means that now even more meeting places will stop enforcing segregation.

As read on Asharq Al Awsat, the statement noted that this list of decisions aimed to attract new investments and create greater business opportunities.

However, this does not mean that this practice has to be stopped. According to CGTN, the announcement does not state that these places have to end segregated entrances, which allows restaurants in the most conservative places of the country to continue with this practice.

This means that men will continue to be separated from the women and families by screens in some areas and that smaller places that do not have space for separate entrances, will not allow women to go in.

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Also, no announcement of changes to other public establishments such as schools or hospitals was done, which means that they are likely to stay segregated, according to Aljazeera.

Since 2017, when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was elected, many changes in the extremely conservative society of Saudi Arabia have occurred. As read on Time, he has pushed for social reforms that now allow women to attend concerts and movie theaters and has shorten the power of the country's religious police.

Also, two years ago women were allowed, for the first time ever, to attend sports events in stadiums in the family sections, young girls have been allowed access to physical education and sports in school as read on CGTN, and this year the kingdom allowed both men and women to apply for a passport and travel freely, “ending a long-standing guardianship policy that had controlled women's freedom of movement”, states the site.

Even though this changes are huge and represent a major step in the fight for a more equal society, BBC reports that dozens of religious leaders, activists and intellectuals, including women, have been arrested and that many discriminatory laws remain.

Actually, just last year, many female activists were jailed according to CNN. Since then, after widespread of international pressure, many have been released but some stay prisoned.

Maria Al-Qassimi, an Emirati writer, said regarding this topic to Arab News that a change in social attitudes may require more time. However, she says that governments in the Arab world are starting to recognize the importance of women in building stronger economies and societies.

“I hope that policies and regulations will be revised to allow both men and women to strike a balance between their responsibilities and contributions both at home and at work,” she told the site.

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