Qatar’s Central Municipal Council (CMC) has pressed for an immediate ban on men working in stores that sell women’s products, “to protect the traditions and customs of Qatari society,” Qatar Tribune reports.
After debating the issue twice, a majority of the council voted for “early action” to establish a new rule that would allow only female staff to work in shops specializing in women’s clothing, hair accessories and perfumes, CMC Vice-President Jassim bin Abdullah al Maliki told the newspaper.
CMC members say a “flood of complaints” from citizens about the presence of male staff in shops prompted their call for action, the newspaper adds.
The CMC – which is directly elected by the Qatari voting-age population every four years – has no legislative authority, but works in an “advisory and monitoring” role.
Accordingly, it has submitted an unspecified number of related recommendations to the Ministry of Municipality for “necessary action.” Among those is a call to ban displays of women’s underwear near the entrances of stores, the Tribune reports.
The council’s vote comes despite an existing law that already prohibits men from working in female clothing shops, which was passed in November 2011.
According to that law, “commercial activities should not disturb social and religious values.” However, some shop owners have apparently ignored this rule due to lack of enforcement, and others have complained that it is difficult to obtain work visas for single women.
In 2012, Nasser bin Abdullah Al Humaidi, then the acting Minister of Labor and Minister of Social Affairs, told Al Watan that the visa restrictions were in place to ensure the safety and well-being of unmarried women.
But a year ago, a Ministry of Labor official stated that Qatar was considering relaxing these rules to help employers adhere to the 2011 law regarding male employees in female clothing shops.
Still, the recruitment of unmarried female staff in Qatar – particularly those who can speak Arabic – is proving difficult today, a senior retail manager told Doha News:
“Qatari women always complain if our salespeople don’t speak Arabic, but the government isn’t making visas for these women readily available. We used to hire Lebanese and Tunisian women, but this is now difficult.”
He added that many companies are now looking further afield for staff, with Eastern Europe, particularly Macedonia, becoming a popular source of new employees.
Last year, Macedonia and Bosnia became the first European countries to agree to send their nationals to work as housemaids and nannies in Qatar.