Inspectors to oversee women-only sales assistants in lingerie shops

January 16, 2013

Saudi Arabia’s labour ministry is to recruit 45 women inspectors to help monitor compliance with a decision to allow only women to work in lingerie shops.

“Their work will be to ensure that the shops are committed to implementing the decision and that the working environment is adequate for the Saudi women who want to work there,” Ahmad Al Humaidan, the ministry undersecretary for labour affairs, said.

The inspectors will also be tasked with checking the veracity of reports that claimed that the Saudi saleswomen were subject to harassment from customers, the official said, local Arabic daily Al Riyadh reported on Wednesday.

“There could be some wrong practices in any working environment, but these should not be generalised and should not have an impact on the application of the decision to limit the staff in lingerie shops to women,” Al Humaidan said. “The experience has been successful and traders have reported a 30 per cent increase in their sales since we applied the decision,” he said.

Al Humaidan said that the ministry wanted to halt hiring foreigners in commercial activities and boost the levels of Saudis in the trade sector and companies.

Saudi Arabia has been pushing for having only women work in lingerie shops throughout the country.

The decision would help lift the embarrassment felt by women customers when they have to deal with men while buying lingerie and would assist Saudi women to find jobs.

However, the decision was resisted by conservative Saudis who said that it was demeaning for Saudi women to be saleswomen in shops and that it would put them in embarrassing situations as they would suffer harassment from clients or men posing as customers.

Last month around 200 men forced their way into the labour ministry building and demanded to sit with the ministry to complain about the decision to employ Saudi women in lingerie shops.

Some of the protesters told him that they would pray for his death if he went ahead with the decision.

However, the minister remained unfazed and explained the social and economic need for the implementation of the decision.

A Saudi blogger decried the protesters’ attitudes, demanding to know why they were shocked by the minister’s decision to enable honest women to work, but were ready to have their womenfolk mention intimate details about their bodies with foreign men working in lingerie shops.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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