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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Some restaurants and cafes in Jeddah and Riyadh's upscale hotels had already been allowing unrelated men and women to sit freely.
Women in Saudi Arabia will no longer need to use separate entrances or sit behind partitions at restaurants in the latest measure announced by the government.
The decision, which essentially ends gender segregation rules in public, was announced on Sunday in a lengthy and technically worded statement by the Municipal and Rural Affairs Ministry.
While some restaurants and cafes in Jeddah and Riyadh's upscale hotels had already been allowing unrelated men and women to sit freely, the move codifies what has been a sensitive issue in the past.
Across Saudi Arabia, the norm has been that unrelated men and women are not permitted to mix in public. Government-run schools and most public universities remain segregated, as are most Saudi weddings.
Restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia, including major Western chains like Starbucks, are currently segregated by "family" sections allocated for women who are out on their own or who are accompanied by male relatives, and "singles" sections for just men. Many also have separate entrances for women and partitions or rooms for families where women are not visible to single men. In smaller restaurants or cafes with no space for segregation, women are not allowed in.
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