Several restaurants in Saudi Arabia have been putting out signs telling single women they are not welcome there, in a move that's drawing both praise and criticism on social media, Gulf News is reporting.
As of this post, there is no official edict from the Saudi government enforcing the ban, according to The Week. The restaurant owners have been making the decision to ban women on their own, rather than face the wrath of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice -- that is, Saudi Arabia's religious police, who enforce the Muslim nation's strict and deeply-held social and religious customs.
Several Saudi politicians have praised the restaurants' move to ban women. One Saudi blogger, writing under the pseudonym "Capable Politician," said that allowing women to eat alone in restaurants causes too many problems for the restaurant and its patrons.
"She would come in alone and focuses on her mobile from which emanates loud music. She then takes out a cigarette and upsets other guests who may call in the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. This could cause problem for the restaurant. So the best thing is to keep women away from restaurants unless they have a male custodian. That way the restaurant is not shut down because of the misbehaviour of an adolescent or mentally unstable woman."
Another blogger also supported the ban.
"My brother has a restaurant and he says that even though there is a section for families, there are often instances of embarrassment. Several women would come in and would speak loudly without any respect for public behaviour. He says that it is difficult for him to get them to lower their voices."
However, in a surprising development, several Saudis spoke up against the ban, including an official in the Saudi government. Khalid Al Fakhri, the head of Saudi Arabia's National Society for Human Rights, said the bans are illegal.
"These signs are against the law and reflect the personal opinions of the restaurant owners."
A blogger known as Harraq suggested that the bans are an insult to the principles of Islam.
"This is utterly ridiculous. This means that a hungry woman who wants to eat something needs a male custodian to enter a restaurant. This is so shameful. Such attitudes are not accepted from any Muslim regarding anyone, let alone a hungry woman who wants to eat something and who will sit in the family section of the restaurant. She is a human being and she has feelings and emotions."
Some progress has been made towards women's rights in Saudi Arabia. According to this Inquisitr report, the extremely conservative Islamic nation is considering allowing women to drive - a practice that has been banned until now.
As of this post, it is not clear how (or even if) the Saudi government will respond to the ban on women in restaurants.
[Image courtesy of: Huffington Post]