Saudi Arabian "Lingerie Law" Allows Saudi Women New Job Freedoms

There’s a new job market for women in Saudi Arabia, lingerie sales. The Kingdom recently implemented a new law that bans men from selling female undergarments, effectively giving women a new route to enter the work force. Purchasing such intimate apparel from a male previously made many women uncomfortable. 

Despite the fact that legislation has been in place since 2006, the law hasn’t been put into effect due to strong protest from the country’s top clerics. Saudi Arabia adheres to an ultra-conservative form of Islam, known as Wahhabism. Segregation of the sexes is strictly enforced and women are not allowed to mingle with males to with whom they are not related.

Giving their measurements and receiving recommendations from a male stranger made enough women uneasy that they organized a boycott of all lingerie stores that employed men.  The boycott, titled “Enough Embarrassment,” was conducted on Facebook since protesting is illegal in the country. It gained so much attention that King Abdullah was forced to issue a royal decree putting the law into full effect. This hasn’t kept the country’s clerics who adamantly oppose the law quiet.

Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh, the country’s senior cleric, recently spoke out against it in a sermon: “'The employment of women in stores that sell female apparel and a woman standing face to face with a man selling to him without modesty or shame can lead to wrongdoing, of which the burden of this will fall on the owners of the stores.”

The newly employed lingerie saleswomen will be without a male family member in a public space. Since women out shopping are accompanied by a male relative, this will lead to inappropriate mixing of the sexes according to the Sheik. 

That logic seems contradictory. Before the law, women were forced to deliver intimate details (measurements, styles, etc.) about their bodies to complete strangers; all of whom were men. The Sheik would rather have a woman reveal details of her body to a clerk, than be without a man in a public space or working. 

The belief that when unrelated men and women mingle, it will inherently lead to promiscuous behavior (everything from loss of virginity to adultery to prostitution have been stated), has been inherent in all gender politics in Saudi Arabia.

This hasn’t deterred women from applying for the open positions. The BBC reports that nearly 40,000 new jobs putting 40,000 men out of work  will be available solely to women. Though many argue that mostly South Asian immigrants will fill them, it is still an exciting development in a country where women still cannot drive

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Lindsay Novis

Writer, runner and recovering dancer. Formerly at the Clinton Global Initiative and the Senate Finance Committee. Lover of all things active and outdoors.

MORE FROM

Will Justice Anthony Kennedy retire at end of Supreme Court term? Here's what we know.

Rumors that the 80-year-old swing justice may leave the bench are fueling fear of a second Trump pick on the nation's high court.

3 states and D.C. allow same flammable building materials behind Grenfell Tower fire

The causes of London's Grenfell Tower are similar to the justifications used to waive fire regulations in the U.S.

New Jersey bill would require kids to be taught how to interact with police

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would receive the education.

UK Parliament hit with cyberattack

Members of Parliament had difficulty accessing their emails Saturday in the wake of the attack.

Istanbul LGBT pride march banned by government for safety concerns

A right-wing nationalist group has vowed to stop the protest.

Compounds seized by US in December reportedly contained material useful in Russia probe

The Trump administration has reportedly been considering returning the New York and Maryland compounds to Russia.

Will Justice Anthony Kennedy retire at end of Supreme Court term? Here's what we know.

Rumors that the 80-year-old swing justice may leave the bench are fueling fear of a second Trump pick on the nation's high court.

3 states and D.C. allow same flammable building materials behind Grenfell Tower fire

The causes of London's Grenfell Tower are similar to the justifications used to waive fire regulations in the U.S.

New Jersey bill would require kids to be taught how to interact with police

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would receive the education.

UK Parliament hit with cyberattack

Members of Parliament had difficulty accessing their emails Saturday in the wake of the attack.

Istanbul LGBT pride march banned by government for safety concerns

A right-wing nationalist group has vowed to stop the protest.

Compounds seized by US in December reportedly contained material useful in Russia probe

The Trump administration has reportedly been considering returning the New York and Maryland compounds to Russia.