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Saudi Arabia Arrests Egyptian Man for Eating Breakfast With Woman

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Sexism and gender discrimination stop women from making their own decisions around the world. Religiously conservative countries like Saudi Arabia infringe on women’s rights to socialize as they please. You can join us in urging leaders to step up for gender equality here.

An Egyptian man was arrested for eating with a woman in Saudi Arabia.

After a video of the two colleagues having breakfast at a hotel desk went viral, the Saudi Ministry of Labour and Social Development took the man into custody Sunday, BBC reports

Take Action: Urge Leaders to Step Up for Women’s Rights and Health

 The ministry deemed the 30-second footage filmed by the man “offensive” and in violation of the Gulf kingdom’s conservative Islamic laws. The fully veiled woman wearing a niqab and abaya is shown waving at the camera, and attempting to feed the man, who’s only been identified as an Egyptian national at the time of writing. The man could face up to five years in prison for workplace sexual harassment charges, according to Alhurra TV.

Saudi Arabia bans men and women who aren’t related from socializing freely in public. Women in the country can’t go most places without a male guardian who’s a close relative. Public spaces, including workplaces, are commonly segregated by gender. 

The public prosecution asked expats in the country to honor the “values and traditions of Saudi society,” according to the Guardian. 

Social media outcry continues, drawing attention to the realities of gender inequality across the world. 

The incident spawned an Arabic Twitter hashtag that translates to "an Egyptian having breakfast with a Saudi.” More than 100,000 tweets were posted in response to the controversy, with a range of opinions, BBC found. Conservative Saudi Arabians criticized the video and found it unfair that only the man was arrested. Egyptians tried to make sense of the situation in light of Saudi Arabia’s recent steps to grant women more rights.

In June, Saudi Arabia lifted its decades long driving ban following its January decision to let women attend sporting events. The recent progress has been applauded, but groups like Humans Rights Watch see the guardianship rule as the country’s biggest threat to women’s rights. 

Read More: Indonesian Restaurant Law Bans Women and Men Eating Together

Saudi Arabia isn’t the only Muslim-majority country with strict gendered dining laws. Earlier this month, a district in Indonesia reinstated its law prohibiting women from eating with men who aren’t relatives.