On 8 December, authorities in Saudi Arabia recognised that restaurants should not keep segregated entrances for women and men. Recognising a recent trend, the Ministry of Municipalities and Rural Affairs announced yesterday on Twitter that restaurants can, if they want, desegregate their entrances.
The previous rule called for men to be separated from women and children at the entrance of the restaurant. The new rule, that is not compulsory, does not specify regulations regarding sex-segregation inside the restaurants. This new rule, additionally, applies to restaurants only and not to other public spaces that are still segregated, like hospitals and schools.
Saudi Arabia has seen some changes regarding women’s rights in the last few years, yet significant issues remain. Countless substantial changes are still needed on the road to civil and political equality between women and men. This new rule, perhaps a symbol of greater societal change, is a step in the direction of desegregating public spaces in Saudi Arabia. It is yet unclear to what extent this desegregation will impact other discriminatory polices against women in the country, foremost among them being the male guardianship system.
The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes any action that leads to desegregating public spaces. It is our hope that Saudi Arabia will increasingly acknowledge women’s equality regarding their civil, political, and economic rights.