In the News 11-22-2009

Unease over men selling lingerie

Source ::: The Peninsula . / By ABDULLAH ABDULRAHMAN

DOHA: Many in the Qatari community are unhappy that over 30 months after the Central Municipal Council (CMC) urged the government to ban men from working in outlets selling lingerie, nothing has changed.

The CMC referred a proposal to the civic ministry urging a ban early in April 2007 after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait enforced such laws.

In Saudi Arabia, local women are now said to be trained so they could work in shops selling intimate female apparel.

Being a GCC state, Qatar has similar culture and traditions, but there is no law that bans the employment of men at stores selling lingerie.

Dr Amina Al Jaber, a famous Qatari woman who teaches Islamic jurisprudence at Qatar University, told The Peninsula yesterday: “I sincerely urge the higher-ups to take necessary steps to help protect the dignity of women.”

She said it was quite upsetting for women to confront men at shops selling intimate women’s clothing. And especially embarrassing is to see undergarments displayed prominently outside these shops. “It’s really awkward for a woman to walk into any of these outlets with her young son or daughter,” she said.

Asked for comment, lawyer Mohsin Thiyab Al Suwaidi, said not all problems could be resolved by putting a law in place. “This is an issue linked to our religion, culture and traditions…We must refuse to buy from shops that have men as sales assistants,” he said.

But sources in trade and industry said a ban is easier said than done as that would complicate things.

First of all, not all such shops are actually owned by Qatari nationals. There are proxy expatriate owners who hire sales staff on their own.

Secondly, the Ministry of Labor does not issue visas for single women to work in independent shops as sales assistants. And even if the visas are issued, it is not cost-effective for an employer to hire female workers.

Additionally, providing housing to single women workers and managing their affairs is full of hassles, said a source.

Contacted for comment, a source at the Ministry of Labor said the responsibility for framing a law banning men from working in female undergarments outlets was the responsibility of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning.

He said if the owners of such shops applied for work visas for single women sales staff, the ministry would gladly provide approval. “I don’t think we would have problems approving such visas,” said the source.

THE PENINSULA

via The Peninsula On-line: Qatar’s leading English Daily.

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