Saudi religious police deny ban on lingerie saleswomen: reports


Sheikh Ibrahim al-Gaith of the powerful Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stressed that he does not oppose women sales personnel in lingerie stores per se.

But he said shops with female clerks had to be in malls restricted to women only, so the saleswomen did not come into contact with men.

"We don’t reject the work of the women in lingerie stores if they are not next to men’s stores," Gaith said, adding that this was government policy.

Saudi women have long complained that they feel uncomfortable having to buy lingerie from men and would prefer female sales assistants.

But the kingdom’s ultra-conservative religious leaders have opposed allowing saleswomen in shops where men are allowed on the grounds that it would violate restrictions on contacts between opposite sexes not from the same family.

Those rules do not extend to salesmen and women customers, however.

In 2005 the labour ministry, in a bid to establish more job opportunities for Saudi women, urged lingerie shops to employ female staff. Minister Ghazi al-Gosaibi said this would serve to limit contact between men and women.

But clerics who can effectively set policy separately from the government have resisted the move, and Gosaibi’s effort has had little effect.

In October Reem As’ad, who teaches economics at a Jeddah college, called for a boycott of lingerie stores that do not replace salesmen with saleswomen.

"We urge every man and woman to help our privacy from being violated by men from whom we are obliged to buy our intimate clothing," she told Arab News.

"Women walk around covered from head to toe, and yet they have to discuss the size and material of their undergarments with strange men. Isn’t this odd?"

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