5 Jan 2012

Saudi Arabia male lingerie sales assistants

5:35 pm on 5 January 2012

Saudi Arabia is to introduce a law banning men from selling women's lingerie in shops.

Government observers will ensure new female shop assistants who will be hired to fill the vacuum are not harassed by religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, who have been fiercely opposed to women working outside the home.

The kingdom's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdel Assis al-Sheikh has warned shop owners that employing women is a "crime and prohibited by Islamic sharia law".

The BBC reports that campaigners for the law change hope it will end decades of awkwardness in a country where women have always been served by male shop assistants.

Many Saudi women say they have felt particularly uncomfortable buying their lingerie from men and campaigners increased pressure for change through a Facebook campaign and a boycott of lingerie stores.

The campaign also gained momentum because of pressure from an increasing number of young women who want to work.

The new law could potentially provide up to 40,000 jobs for Saudi women who to date have had little or not access to employment.

The ban on male staff is due to be extended to Saudi cosmetics shops from July.