Saudi ends gender segregation in restaurants

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Saudi Arabia has abolished rules requiring restaurants to provide separate entrances and areas for women and families and for male patrons dining alone. The decision was announced by the Municipal and Rural Affairs Ministry on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, in the latest step towards overturning gender restrictions. The ministry said it was “removing a requirement by restaurants to have an entrance for single men and another for families”, and that restaurants no longer need to “specify private spaces”. Some restaurants and cafes in Jeddah and Riyadh’s upscale hotels had already been allowing unrelated men and women to sit together but the norm was that they were not permitted to mix in public. Restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia are segregated into “family” sections for women on their own or accompanied by male relatives, and “singles” sections for just men. Many also have separate entrances for women and partitioned areas or rooms for families where they are not visible to single men. In smaller restaurants or cafes with no space for segregation, women were not allowed in.
Saudi Arabia now regularly hosts international sporting events and musical performances that women and men can attend. Two years ago, women for the first time were allowed to attend sports events in stadiums in the “family” sections. Young girls in recent years have also been allowed access to physical education and sports in school. In August 2019, the country lifted a controversial ban on travel by allowing all citizens to apply for a passport and for women to travel freely without a male guardian.