Saudi Arabia has officially announced that it will abolish the separation of men from women in cafes and restaurants. Until now, it was mandatory to install partitions dividing the spaces into female and male parts, as well as separate halls or even separate special entrances for men and women.
As noted by the Associated Press, since this change may seem too controversial to conservatives, the kingdom’s government introduced it without much fanfare.
This novelty was reported by the official SPA agency in a communiqué, which lists various regulations and norms, such as permissible length of a house facade, permission to place the kitchen on the second floor, and not only on the first, and so on.
In fact, expensive restaurants and luxury hotels in Jeddah and Riyadh have not recently adhered to the obligation to separate men and women, but such separation has existed elsewhere.
Western chains, such as Starbucks, divided the premises into “family” halls, where women could enter on their own or accompanied by a male, and rooms for “singles”, where only males could enter.
Some restaurants did not allow entry to women at all, especially if these establishments did not have partitions to separate the entrance for men and women.
In Saudi Arabia, there is still a rule according to which both women and men are separated in public places: in schools, universities and even at weddings.
In August 2019, a law that restricted freedom of movement for women and did not allow them to apply for a passport was repealed. In the summer of 2018, a royal decree allowed women to drive. Previously, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where women were banned from driving a car.
Yet back in May 2018 several human rights defenders, most of whom demanded that women in the country be given the right to drive and abolition of the system of male supervision, were arrested. This supervision effectively made it impossible for women to make their own decisions. Moreover, those who dared to disobey were placed in jail for up to a year.