Saudi women win right to sell lingerie, work in shopping malls

by Lisa Anderson | | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 4 January 2012 17:23 GMT

Saudi women work in a lingerie shop at a mall in Jeddah January 9, 2012. REUTERS/Susan Baaghil

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New controversial law bans men from working in intimate apparel shops, opens jobs for women

NEW YORK (TrustLaw)—Despite opposition from religious leaders, a new law in Saudi Arabia will ban men from working in intimate apparel shops and open those jobs to women for the first time.

The change may ease the 28 percent unemployment rate among Saudi women, who previously were not permitted to work as sales clerks in shopping malls, according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

In the past, only men were allowed to sell lingerie, a practice supported by religious leaders, some of whom, including the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, gave sermons railing against the change.  

Others considered the prior rule “un-Islamic,” including Ibrahim Al Mugaiteeb of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights First Society.

 “This is the hypocrisy of some religious people who interpret the rulings of Islam, otherwise you would think they would be fighting for that,” he told ABC.  “No man should deal with a woman about her underwear.”

The change marks another step forward for women’s rights in the kingdom, which granted women the right to vote last year. However, women still may not drive and remain subject to laws requiring that they have male guardians.

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