October 03
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Armenian presents the article “Saudi Arabia’s bra problem” by Melis Alphan published in Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review.

“One would be surprised to be welcomed into a women’s lingerie store by male clerks in one of the world’s most conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia. And surprisingly that is just the case. The lingerie shops are being run by female staff worldwide and one would expect the same from this kingdom. Instead women in Saudi Arabia have to buy their intimate clothing from male clerks. Such irony,” the newspaper reports.

“Because in this country, all women are expected to have a male guardian, women are not permitted to vote or be elected to high political positions, they are prohibited from driving. Saudi Arabia is ranked 130 out of 134 countries for gender parity according to the World Economic Forum 2009 Global Gender Gap Report,” the source says.

“In such a conservative society, women are banned from working in public places. The reason for that is to avoid their contact with men.”

“This causes much embarrassment for women customers seeking advice on cup sizes in lingerie stores. The shops are also not allowed to have fitting rooms. And the biggest complaint is that male clerks in general try to guess customers’ bra sizes by staring at their abayas,” the source says.

“Shops may hire females. But then again, they must train them and bear the cost of that. They are expected to cover their display windows in order to block the view into the stores. And should pay $930 a month to hire a male security guard. This is all to keep men from entering the shop,” the newspaper reports.

“In 2005, the Labor Ministry announced a plan to employ women in shops. In 2006, a law passed by lawmakers said women were allowed to work in stores that sell women’s items. But the law has not been put into practice.”

“Women’s intimate apparel represents 17 percent of the $2.3 billion Saudi women’s clothing market. The owners of lingerie stores resist replacing male sales clerks with women because they argue that this change will result with them losing customers. The resistance continues even though the Labor Ministry threatened to close all lingerie shops that failed to replace male staff. They believe the change will not be as fast as the government expects, because the women have to be trained from scratch,” the newspaper reads.


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