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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Saudi rulers issue 'lingerie law'
Saudi women
Women must wear the abaya while out in public
Lingerie shops in the strictly conservative Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been ordered to recruit women to replace male salesmen.

At present women, who are not allowed to mix with men other than close family members outside the home, must buy underwear in shops staffed by men.

The country's labour minister said the ruling will create jobs for women.

Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive or vote, and face restrictions on where and when they can work.


Under the new rules, all lingerie shops have one year to replace their male staff with women.

Shops selling underwear alongside other clothes and goods, including the long black abaya cloak women must wear in public, have two years to make the switch.

Several women have recently written to Saudi newspapers pointing out the anomaly that although they are forbidden to meet men in public, they have little choice but to buy their most private clothes in the company of strange men.

Labour Minister Ghazi al-Gosaibi issued a directive on women's clothing stores to minimise the amount of contact between men and women.

As well as changing staff, shop owners have been ordered to design stores so that nobody can see inside, and to install separate entrances for women.

Training funds would be allocated for women, and foreign workers would also be replaced inside shops, Mr al-Gosaibi was reported as saying.

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