Dress code for female Saudi ministry workers ignites heated debate

The Ministry of Labor plans to impose a fine of SR1,000 ($266) on women not following the Islamic dress code within their workplaces

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Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Labor’s decision to impose fines on female workers violating the dress code at their workplaces has sparked a heated debate. According to a local newspaper, the Ministry of Labor plans to impose a fine of SR1,000 ($266) on women not following the Islamic dress code within their workplaces.

The fine was included within the ministry’s new charter which also outlines that employers must specify a dress code for their female employees and that failure to do so will lead to a SR5,000 ($1,300) fine.

Afnan Kokandi, a Saudi employee in her 20s who works for a private company, said” “I think it is a good policy because women are going to work and not to a fashion show. As a woman, you should wear Islamic dress and there is no need to go to work as if you are going to a wedding.”

Rahaf Yamani, a Saudi employee in a private company in her 20s, said that women should stick to Islamic dress code, especially when employed in mix-gender work environments. She added that the fines are somewhat high, especially the ones imposed on companies, which is equivalent to an employee’s salary.

Noura Fuad, another Saudi who works for a private company, said: “I do not like the new policy since clothes are a private and personal matter and something between a woman and God. Women should have the freedom to choose.”

Sarah, another Saudi woman, said the law has been in place for some time. “Unfortunately, many people are not aware that this law is not new and it has already been there. The only thing new here is the proposed penalty,” she said.

The new law has sparked a debate on social media. Many described the decision as brilliant and others believed it was unfair to women. One person commented that in order for the law to be fair, a similar law should be imposed on salesmen who leave the upper buttons of their shirts open.

Some social media users suggested that rather than imposing fines on women, laws need to be introduced that prevent harassment of women, while others said more focus needs to be given on decreasing the rate of female unemployment. The ministry also announced fines on firms making night shifts on women obligatory, and also SR10,000 ($2,600) on companies that fail to provide female sections within the workplace. Such companies would also be required to rectify the situation within a month.

The ministry’s charter also includes a clause that prevents companies from employing minors within hazardous workplaces, such as construction sites and on conveyer belts within factories. Violators face a fine of SR10,000 ($2,600).

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Oct. 20.

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