If women in Saudi Arabia want to have their dose of Starbucks, they would need to enlist the help of their male drivers or companions. Earlier this week, a particular Starbucks chain in Riyadh banned women from entering its premises after the religious police noticed that the store’s wooden wall, formerly used to separate men and women, had collapsed.
The partition is also known as the “gender barrier,” and it serves the purpose of providing different entrances and exits for men and women in public spaces. As per the Independent, the country’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice ordered the shop’s management to ban women from entering after the inspectors noticed the collapse of the wall caused by frequent customer stampedes.
Following the order of authorities, a sign on the door now reads, “PLEASE NO ENTRY FOR LADIES ONLY SEND YOUR DRIVER TO ORDER THANK YOU.” The banning of women in Starbucks became publicized when a Twitter user claimed that she was forbidden to get her own beverage.
The country is widely known for its gender segregation practices. Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive, which makes it common for them to have drivers. Women likewise require a male guardian’s approval should they opt to work outside their homes.
While the news does not come as a surprise for those residing in the country, many were appalled since Starbucks is a prominent brand across the globe.
The renowned coffee shop has not yet addressed the online furor brought by the news, but it released a statement about its temporary ban. The Riyadh store is reportedly doing its best to renovate its facilities to start accommodating women customers again.
“Starbucks in Saudi Arabia adheres to the local customs by providing separate entrances for families as well as single people. All our stores provide equal amenities, service, menu, and seating to men, women and families. We are working as quickly as possible as we refurbish our Jarir store, so that we may again welcome all customers in accordance with local customs.”
Recently, Saudi’s stringent gender rules made headlines when three women from Minnessota were awarded $130,000 each after being dismissed from their chauffeur jobs because their client, a Saudi Prince, only wanted male drivers.
In 2010, Lisa Boutelle, Gretchen Cooper, and Barbara Herold were among the 40 drivers hired to chauffeur Prince Abdul-Rahman bin Abdul-Aziz and his entourage. The prince visited Rochester to seek treatment from the renowned Mayo Clinic. After being dismissed from their jobs, the women filed a gender discrimination lawsuit.
Following U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen’s decision, the women were awarded the compensation for mental anguish and suffering. Lisa Stratton, one of the complainants’ lawyers, told ABC that people must adhere to the U.S. laws if they would do business in the country.
“The key issue for us is people know now that it is not legal in the state of Minnesota or the United States to discriminate because your customer asks you to. When you do business in the United States, the law of the United States applies.”
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