In another blow to women’s rights in the desert kingdom, Saudi Arabian restaurants have begun to ban single women from entering their premises. The ban has also been extended to women not accompanied by a male guardian.
Signs in various restaurants around the kingdom have begun popping up announcing the ban. Restaurant owners claim that women in restaurants have been behaving in “a shocking way,” according to one blogger who supported the ban.
The objectionable behavior included flirting, smoking and using a mobile phone. Local media Al Marsad reported a typical remark written by one blogger who wrote: “She would come in alone and focuses on her mobile from which emanates loud music. She then takes out a cigarette and upsets other guests who may call in the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. This could cause problem for the restaurant. So the best thing is to keep women away from restaurants unless they have a male custodian. That way the restaurant is not shut down because of the misbehavior of an adolescent or mentally unstable woman.”
Other disagreed, writing, “This is utterly ridiculous. This means that a hungry woman who wants to eat something needs a male custodian to enter a restaurant,” Harraq said. “This is so shameful. Such attitudes are not accepted from any Muslim regarding anyone, let alone a hungry woman who wants to eat something and who will sit in the family section of the restaurant. She is a human being and she has feelings and emotions.”
Speaking to Al-Hayat, one Saudi woman said that restaurants and cafes are the two of the main sources of recreation for women in the kingdom. "If they're going to ban us from entering restaurants, where are we supposed to go?" she asked, requesting that any restaurant that bans women should be boycotted.
Rights groups expressed outrage over this new phenomenon, which they said were illegal. “These signs are against the law and reflect the personal opinions of the restaurant owners," said Khalid Al-Fakhri , secretary general for the National Society for Human Rights. "Restaurants should come up with alternative solutions if its customers are behaving inappropriately."
Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s most dismal records for women’s rights. Women in the kingdom are forbidden to be in public without a male guardian. Most sports activities and professions are forbidden to them. Saudi Arabia is also the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.
Meanwhile, despite the requirement for women to wear burkas in public, sexual harassment of Saudi women remains rampant (see video below):