While the Religious Police today launched their annual nationwide crackdown on stores selling items that are red or in any other way allude to the banned celebrations of Valentine’s Day, Reem Asaad and her fellow women continue their lingerie jihad. Starting on the 13th of February and for two weeks, women are called to boycott all lingerie shops that employ men.
This is the second phase of the campaign that Asaad started a year ago, aiming to address one of the many bizarre contradictions in Saudi Arabia, where in this supposedly most conservative country on earth women have to divulge their underwear sizes and colors to strange men on regular basis. Check out this Facebook group to learn more about the campaign.
Ghazi al-Gosaibi, minister of labor, who is currently ill and being treated in the US, has issued a law in 2006 stating that “only females may be employed in women apparel and accessories stores.” However, the law has never been implemented due to the objection and resistance of different parties.
I feel ashamed that there are 270,000 unemployed Saudi young men and a similar number of unemployed Saudi young women in a country that employs more than seven million foreigners
— Ghazi al-Gosaibi, the minister of labor.
I hope that many other officials feel the same way. In a shame culture like ours, this can be a good thing.
Ghazi al-Gosaibi, the Saudi Minister of Labor, is seen here wearing a waiter uniform and serving food at Fuddruckers in Jeddah. The minister criticized those who look down on some jobs saying they do not understand the spirit of Quran.
In my post last February on women’s employment I asked if whether we were moving towards more regulation or more segregation. According to a directive issued last week by Prince Khaled al-Faisal, Governor of Mecca, I guess regulation it is.
The directive, which was published in local media last Wednesday, is based on a letter sent by Labor Minister Ghazi al-Gosaibi who emphasized that the new labor law has deleted the clause banning women from working in mixed workplaces, and replaced it with a new clause that applies to both genders stating that “both the employer and employee must adhere to the law in conformity with Sharia.”
Now this last statement may sound vague and ill-defined, but it is still worthy of attention because the letter also affirmed that the Ministry of Labor is the government’s body responsible for regulating women’s working and that any involvement by other government’s bodies is unacceptable, in what seems to be a hint to the Commission and their sympathizers who keep nosing into these issues.
However, and as we have previously seen many times in the magic kingdom, writing laws is one thing and implementing them is quite another, especially when you don’t have an elected parliament to monitor the performance of government and question them when they fail to achieve their announced goals.
It was Ghazi al-Gosaibi who has tried three years ago to make working in women’s shops limited to Saudi women before he had to back down after fierce opposition by conservatives. What is different this time, though, is that he is not fighting alone. The support of Khaled al-Faisal, a figure many conservatives hate as much as they hate al-Gosaibi, could be the push the government need to put the laws in effect. It remains to be seen how crucial is this support will be.
UPDATE: In his column in Al Hayat today Abdul-Aziz al-Suwaid makes a good point about the vagueness of the law, asking MOL to define clear guidelines to protect women should they come under harassment. I totally agree.