How Will Shoura Separate Men from Women?

In the royal decrees announcing the appointment of women to the Shoura Council, the decrees stressed that the decision has come after consultation with religious scholars and that it would follow the strict rules of Sharia. The decrees said that men and women will be segregated inside the council, with a special area designated for women who will enter through a separate door. It is still unclear, however, how this separation between male and female members will be achieved inside the council chamber.

Asharq al-Awsat spoke today with Ahmed al-Suhaimi, the secretary-general of the Shoura Council, who said that there will be a partition but did not elaborate on the nature of this partition. “Nothing will block the council speaker’s view of the female members,” he said, “and nothing will block their view of him.” Al-Suhaimi added that the word “partition” gives them flexibility and leaves space for interpretation.

This is exactly what the newspaper did, speculating that there are no more than three options for Shoura when it comes to the nature of this partition:

  1. Movable screens like the ones usually available in the family sections of Saudi restaurants to separate those who want more privacy from the rest. Such screens can be made of wood, glass or other fabrics.

  2. Fixed glass partition using one-way mirrors. The newspaper said this type of partition is common in Saudi universities where female students would wait for their drivers to pick them up.

  3. Fence made of wood with Islamic patterns similar to the ones seen in bay windows in places like the old part of Jeddah. The newspaper said this is the most likely option.

Amazing how many resources are being wasted to ensure gender segregation in this country. This is an example of Saudi exceptionalism at its best (or worst).