Gender segregation will no longer be required in Saudi Arabian restaurant entrances, the Saudi Municipalities and Rural Affairs Ministry announced on the Twitter short message platform on Sunday. Until now, all restaurants in the kingdom maintained two entrances – one for families and women and another for men on their own. For decades, the mixing of unrelated men and women in public places was banned by Saudi Islamic authorities and religious police. But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has instituted a number of reforms, easing restrictions. It remains unclear whether this reform applies only to restaurant entrances or whether mixed-gender seating areas in restaurants would also be permitted. The new rules are optional; restaurants that wish to maintain separate entrances may continue to do so. Mandatory gender separation in schools, hospitals and other public establishments seems likely to continue for now. There has also been some erosion of the kingdom’s guardianship system, according to which women must have the approval of a male relative to make significant decisions. Alongside the crown prince’s relative liberality in some areas, he has also cracked down on dissent, arresting intellectuals, activists, and perceived critics of the regime.
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