"Wall-Mart?" Saudi shops to build sex-segregation walls


Authorities in Saudi Arabia have ordered shops that employ both men and women to build separation walls to enforce segregation, local media reported on Monday.

The order was issued by Labor Minister Adel Faqih and was verified by Abdullatif al-Sheikh, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, commonly known as ‘Mutawa’ or religious police.

The new rule states that a separation barrier, no shorter than 1.6 meters, should be erected to divide men and women in the workplace.

Authorities have been focused on promoting the kingdom’s conservative rules in the country’s shopping malls.

On June 2011, Saudi Arabia required lingerie shops to replace their salesmen, mostly of Asian origin, with Saudi saleswomen. This directive was later extended to cosmetic outlets.

Women complained that they feel uncomfortable buying personal items from males, predicating the initiative.

The labor ministry said the decision to employ women in lingerie shops should create some 44,000 jobs for Saudi women. The unemployment rate among women stands at 30 percent according to official figures.

In December, the head of the religious police accused the labor ministry of failing to promote a safe work environment for women in the country as many have complained of harassment.