Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the United Arab Emirates, is under fire for their complete disregard and approach to women's rights. In the city of Riyadh a few months ago, two women were turned away from entering a Starbucks coffee shop and told to have their male drivers come in and order their coffee for them.
The reason? Many public areas in Saudi Arabia have physical gender barriers to separate women and men. During this time, the Riyadh Starbucks location was undergoing construction and there were no barriers in place, therefore only men were allowed to visit the coffee shop while all women were refused.
Many protesters took to Twitter and other social media sites to show photos of the signs posted on the doors of the Starbucks saying women were not allowed to enter the premises, and must send their driver in instead. The signs were not from Starbucks management but direct orders that had come from the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which is Saudi Arabia's religious police who enforce a strict interpretation of Sharia law.
Sign reads "Please no entrance for ladies, only send your
driver to order. Thank you."
Many around the world showed outrage about this blatant display of gender discrimination in Saudi Arabia, but what many don't know is that this isn't all that unusual in this Arabic kingdom. Coffee shops and other public spaces in the country deny entry to single women and also single men, some even deny women all together.
Women equality and basic human rights for women was thought to be improving in the strictly religious nation when just recently women were allowed to vote. However, women in Saudi Arabia are still not allowed to drive and so many were unable to vote and run as candidates in municipal elections last December because they couldn't drive themselves to the polling stations.
This serious gender barrier was brought to the attention of millions world-wide because it involved the well-known international brand Starbucks. Thousands are going to social media to bring up important questions, such as why countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are allowed to sit on the UN Council of Human Rights when both have been the worst offenders in recent history of human rights, especially when it comes to religious freedom, freedom of speech, human trafficking, use of torture, migrant and labor rights, and women's rights.