Saudi Arabia: Women no longer need to use separate entrances from men at restaurants

Saudi Arabia: Women no longer need to use separate entrances from men at restaurants

Women in Saudi Arabia will no longer need to use separate entrances from men or sit behind partitions at restaurants, in the latest loosening of gender-based restrictions in the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom.

The restrictions had already been quietly eased in practice, with many restaurants, cafes and other meeting places no longer enforcing segregation.

The decision was quietly announced on Sunday in a lengthy and technically worded statement by the municipal and rural affairs ministry.

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While the requirement has been removed, it is unclear whether most restaurants or cafes will go ahead with the change.

Across Saudi Arabia, the norm has been that unrelated men and women are not permitted to mix in public. Government-run schools and most public universities remain segregated, as are most Saudi weddings.

A series of sweeping social reforms in Saudi Arabia has been accompanied by an intensified crackdown on dissent.

In 2017, women were allowed entry into sports stadiums in family designated sections, while a year later they were also given the right to drive.

This August, a further ban was lifted to allow women to apply for a passport and travel without first obtaining the permission of their male guardian.