In Brief

Single women banned from restaurants in Saudi Arabia

'Mentally unstable' women who flirt and smoke barred from eateries unless they have a chaperone

Human rights organisations have condemned a move by restaurants in Saudi Arabia to ban single women from entering without a male chaperone.

Several restaurants in the conservative Muslim kingdom have begun displaying signs that say "women are not allowed", Gulf News reports.

One restaurant owner told the Arabic newspaper Al Hayat: "We put up these signs because we have seen numerous incidents of flirting taking place inside the restaurant."

"We'll only remove these signs when we make sure such incidents never happen again on our premises because such type of behaviour negatively impacts our business," he said.

One male blogger described what he called the "shocking" behaviour exhibited by unaccompanied women, including the use of mobile phones and smoking. "The best thing is to keep women away from restaurants unless they have a male custodian," he said. "That way the restaurant is not shut down because of the misbehaviour of an adolescent or mentally unstable woman."

Saudi Arabia has an abysmal record when it comes to safeguarding women's rights and a multitude of restrictions are placed on their daily lives.

There is no official law banning women from travelling alone, but deeply held religious beliefs dictate that a woman should be accompanied by a male family member in public, particularly when visiting government building and public institutions.

The head of Saudi Arabia's National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) Khalid Al Fakhri has called the measure illegal and the group is demanding that the signs be removed immediately. 

"These signs are against the law and reflect the personal opinions of the restaurant owners," Al Fakhri said.

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