Saudi Arabia has ordered the closure of around 100 lingerie shops in the capital Riyadi which have violated new regulations banning men from working on their sales staff, it emerged today.
A labour ministry official was quoted by the newspaper Al-Eqtisadiah as saying all shops which flouted a decree on the 'feminisation and nationalisation of jobs' would be shut down.
The measure aims to 'provide a safe environment for working women,' he said.
At the start of this year, the ministry banned male assistants from working at lingerie shops as a first step to be followed by women-only sales assistants at cosmetics outlets.
King Abdullah issued the decree to end the 'embarrassment' suffered by women who don't want to give men their measurements.
It was also part of an effort to reduce high female unemployment in the conservative kingdom, currently at around 30 per cent.
Saudi women - tired of having to deal with men when buying undergarments - boycotted lingerie stores to pressure them to employ women.
The country is home to Islam's holiest site in the city of Mecca and follows an ultra-conservative form of the religion known as Wahhabism.
The kingdom's religious police, under the control of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, enforce Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islam, which prohibits unrelated men and women from mingling.
Women and men in Saudi Arabia remain highly segregated and are restricted in how they are allowed to mix in public.Women in Saudi Arabia hold high-level teaching positions in universities and work as engineers, doctors, nurses and a range of other posts.