Saudi Arabia will now allow women to eat in the same dining area and use the same entrance as men

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Women in Saudi Arabia will no longer need to use separate entrances from men or sit behind partitions at restaurants in the latest measure announced by the government that upends a major hallmark of conservative restrictions that had been in place for decades.

While some restaurants and cafes in the coastal city of Jiddah and Riyadh’s upscale hotels had already been allowing unrelated men and women to sit freely, the move codifies what has been a sensitive issue in the past among traditional Saudis who view gender segregation as a religious requirement. Despite that, neighboring Muslim countries do not have similar rules.

What this all means:

  • Even western chains, like Starbucks, have separate dining areas that are “currently segregated by ‘family’ sections allocated for women who are out on their own or who are accompanied by male relatives, and ‘single’ sections for just men.”
  • “Restaurants also have separate entrances for women and partitions or rooms for families where women are not visible to single men. In smaller restaurants or cafes with no space for segregation, women are not allowed in.
  • Announced in the state run, Saudi Press Agency.
  • Other building/technical codes announced
  • Main goal aimed focuses on “attracting investments and creating greater business opportunities.”
  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has relaxed several Saudi laws including: men and women can attend concerts and movies; ended the powers of the country’s religious police who enforced gender segregation laws; women can drive and attend sporting events in “family sections.”

Don’t get too excited or praise the Crown Prince for granting women a few, paltry rights. The new rules remove mandatory restrictions but, if a café so desires to segregate women and force them to use separate entrances, they can.

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