Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Saudi women can finally sell lingerie

What's wrong with this picture?
With women banned from retail sales in repressive Saudi Arabia, they were forced to buy from South Asian men. While the restrictive laws were designed to prevent men and women from interacting, the reverse became true as Burqa-wearing women were forced to discuss intimate details with non-related men.
The law also resulted in funny sights such as this.
In 2006 the law was repealed and women were supposed to be able to sell lingerie but, with the restrictions on driving and the lack of trained women, nothing really changed.
But Social Media came to the rescue again. With a Facebook boycott garnering 1300 signatures, King Abdullah put his power behind the rule and gave the shops until June to comply.
While it's a small victory over petty rules that dominate women's rights in Saudi Arabia, there are two very interesting aspects to it that excite me:
  1. Facebook, the oil lubricating the entire Arab Spring protests, was involved again and the Saudi royals recognized its power and bowed immediately to the pressure before things became worse for them.
  2. Now that the women have a foothold in retail, they will gain experience and start taking over in other areas. They will have to be able to commute to jobs either by a newly developed public transportation system or a relaxing of driving laws.
Could this small change could be to Saudi Arabia what Rosie the Riveter was to the US women's rights?

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