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09 December 2019

Saudi Arabia ends gender rules for restaurant entrances

Unrelated men and women have for decades been barred from mixing in public places under strict social rules once enforced by hardline clerics and the religious police.

Bloomberg/Tasneem Alsultan

Saudi Arabia is ending the requirement that restaurants have two separate entrances, one for families and women and another for unaccompanied men, reported Bloomberg.

The ministry’s statement did not say whether seating inside the restaurants would be gender-mixed. Some restaurants already allow unaccompanied men to sit in the same area as women and families.

The move is meant to mark another sign that Saudi Arabia is loosening up socially as the Arabian Gulf’s biggest economy tries to wean itself from oil revenue.

For years, the religious police enforced strict gender separation in public places, though its power was curbed in 2016. The next year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that a shift toward moderate Islam was key to his plan to modernise the country.

In the last year, there have been more gender-mixed events, including concerts and different kinds of events like comedy shows as well as professional wrestling.

Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most gender-segregated nations, also scrapped the guardianship system which required all women to have a male relative’s approval for important decisions, though some key restrictions remain.

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