Saudi Arabia to Pass Lingerie Law

Chris Greenhough - Author

Jun. 16 2013, Updated 1:01 a.m. ET

Saudi Arabia confirmed Monday it would shortly pass a new law that permits only females to work in women’s lingerie stores.

The law forbidding men to work in female apparel and cosmetic stores was first proposed in 2006, but has never been pushed through, largely due to disapproval from the country’s top hard-liner clerics. The clerics are opposed to women working in places where men and women congregate together, like malls. Frightful stuff, I know.

The decision to finally enforce the law is, in fact, largely down to female consumers. As women grew tired of dealing with men in lingerie outlets, more and more boycotted such stores. Now, the government has backed down, and the new law goes into effect Thursday.

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Saudi Arabia’s famously ultra-conservative law is enforced by police who are under the control of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The body is responsible for ensuring Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islam is observed in day-to-day life. The Saudi law ensures men and women are highly segregated, with unrelated men and women prohibited from mingling in many walks of life.

Exceptions do occur, however. Saudi Arabian women hold positions as doctors, nurses, university lecturers and engineers, though these are rare examples.

Alas, thousands of men are set to lose their jobs in the stores, with the Saudi Labor Ministry confirming over 28,000 women have already applied for the positions.

And of course, not everybody is particularly pleased about women having the temerity to show their faces in public. Here’s Saudi’s Arabia’s most senior cleric, Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh, on the matter:

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“The employment of women in stores that sell female apparel and a woman standing face to face with a man selling to him without modesty or shame can lead to wrongdoing, of which the burden of this will fall on the owners of the stores.”

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