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Saudi Arabia bans men from working in lingerie stores

A new law, on the orders of King Abdullah, ends a system where women were forced to buy their underwear from male sellers.

A Saudi Arabian woman wears goggles at a stone-throwing ceremony in November. From today, it is illegal for any man to work in a lingerie store in the country.
A Saudi Arabian woman wears goggles at a stone-throwing ceremony in November. From today, it is illegal for any man to work in a lingerie store in the country.
Image: Hassan Ammar/AP

SAUDI ARABIA has formally adopted a decree from its ruler, King Abdullah, allowing only women to work in the country’s lingerie stores.

The decree comes after women had complained of feeling awkward and embarrassed about having to buy their underwear in stores staffed exclusively by men.

One shopper told AFP: “I and many other women like me were always embarrassed to walk into lingerie shops because men were selling the goods.”

The shopper added that she had previously bought the wrong underwear simply because she felt “was sensitive about explaining what I wanted” to a male server.

The decree came into effect today, after being issued last July, giving shops six months to comply with its ruling. The ban will be extended to cosmetics shops from July.

The Saudi government says the ruling will affect over 4,300 retailers in the country, which has a population of over 27 million, and create job opportunities for around 40,000 women.

All legislation in Saudi Arabia is passed down by the King; the country does not have a parliament.

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Gavan Reilly

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