The Saudi ordinance bans men from selling underwear.

Melissa Block interviewed the Saudi writer and women’s rights advocate Reem Asaad, who launched a campaign in 2008 to boycott lingerie shops that only hire men. Saudi Arabia’s new royal decree bans men from selling underwear.

Robert siegel, host:

From NPR news, this is everything. I’m Robert siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

I’m Melissa Block. Now, a story about lace, spandex and women in Saudi Arabia. We are discussing a law that takes effect today. It is a royal decree that allows women to work only in lingerie shops. So far, the stores have been staffed exclusively by men, leading to complaints from women and even a Facebook event called “embarrassing enough”.

So Reem Asaad, a Saudi writer and women’s rights advocate, has launched a campaign against the men’s underwear store. Speaking from jeddah, Saudi Arabia, she explains why.

REEM ASAAD: traditionally, in Saudi Arabia, men sales from children’s toys to cosmetics, all the things to the tyres and car, but it is changing all the time, it may open, let more women to join this industry, for better job opportunities women themselves.

Block: how much work do you think this might create for women to work in lingerie stores now?

ASAAD: unfortunately, we didn’t get a very good statistic, but I assumed there were no fewer than 20,000 jobs.

Block: wow. This is a lot of lingerie shops.

ASAAD: not just underwear. If you notice, the law and the law stipulate that women will be engaged in everything from women’s underwear to cosmetics, cosmetics and clothing.

BLOCK: I want to ask you something about I see criticism on “the guardian”, now, by letting women in lingerie store sales, it creates more same separatism, isolation of men and women, this is a bad thing, and if so, there should be more interaction, more contact. What do you think?

ASAAD: well, I really don’t think so. If you only want a lady in the morning class, naturally, said she would walk into a shopping center, so she could between security personnel and other personnel to meet more men and women the cashier and shopkeepers, etc. So there’s a lot of interaction, whether she likes it or not.

Blockade: I have read the clerics strongly opposed by the law. They say it’s a crime to hire women, and islamic law forbids it, and I’ve collected at least one of the mecca shops that were attacked by religious police. Are you worried about any backlash here?

ASAAD: well, I just discuss this problem, and some of these women tonight, we do not worry, because we know that someone will not like it, but here is one of the most important government strategy will be, too. Policymakers decided to move on, and that is the point at this point.

BLOCK: have you entered the lingerie store since the law came into effect? Does it seem like a different adventure now?

ASAAD: I’ve seen a lot of good things. I’ve seen happy women. I’ve seen women work, productivity, people feel more connected. These women have power; So these women have better spending power. They may lead a happier life than their ancestors.

BLOCK: this is Reem Asaad, who told me from jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the new law that only women can work in lingerie shops. Reem Asaad, thank you very much.

ASAAD: thank you very much.

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