Saudi Arabia will no longer require restaurants to provide gender-segregated entrances for men and women, the government announced Sunday, according to the BBC.
Before this change, restaurants were required to have two separate entrances — one for women and children and one specifically for unaccompanied men. However, enforcement of the rule has been relatively relaxed over the past few years, the BBC reported.
Now, it will officially be up to individual restaurants to decide. The statement from the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs did not say whether mixed seating in restaurants would be allowed in an official capacity, according to Bloomberg.
The ministry's announcement on Sunday is the latest social reform to come out of Saudi Arabia in recent years, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's "Vision 2030" — an attempt to modernize and diversify the kingdom.
Saudi women were granted the right to drive in 2017 and were subsequently issued driver’s licenses nearly a year later. In August of this year, the government also lifted the ban prohibiting Saudi women from traveling alone without permission, part of the country's male guardianship system requiring women to consult a male guardian before engaging in a variety of activities.
“The fact that restaurants will not have to have two separate entrances, one for singles and the other for families, is great — from an economic perspective, from a practical perspective,” Mona Shahab, a clinical therapist from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, told CNBC.
“I really think this is a step forward. From being able to drive to I think the most important change which is removing male guardianship for females in Saudi Arabia — that’s the main thing I think a lot of us were waiting for,” Shahab said. “Because it’s all about choices.”
While these reforms have been praised on the world stage, activists argue that it is not enough and far too many discriminatory laws remain in place. Even as the government continues to make these social reforms, female activists are still being arrested in the process.