Its Embarrassing. Men Selling Lingerie Not Acceptable Say UAE Women

Published March 3rd, 2019 - 08:33 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)

Women said they feel "embarrassed" to interact with male staff about the "specifications of undergarments".

Women in Sharjah have expressed concerns over the lack of female staff at the lingerie sections of cloth stores. According to shoppers, the problem is prevalent at open markets like Irani Souq, Al Ghuwair market and Sharjah Central Souq.

Women said they feel "embarrassed" to interact with male staff about the "specifications of undergarments".

His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, had earlier introduced a law banning men from working in women's lingerie and undergarment shops. Women of various nationalities are urging the authorities concerned to conduct inspections at outlets that are flouting the rules.

These are private pieces of clothing and gender sensitivity must be adopted, said a resident, Sanna Yosuf. "Lingerie stores should have privacy and must not have male employees. Many women find it difficult to seek help from shop assistants if they are male. It is only logical to have women selling those items."

Some residents prefer to shop at branded shops at malls "as they follow the rules". Al Anood Al Jasmi, a resident, said: "It is difficult for me to ask strange men about such things. Also, most shops have surveillance cameras that capture such things being discussed. How can we be sure that such videos won't be circulated?"

The presence of male staff at such stores has decreased after the law issued by the government. "However, some shops, even if they have a female salesperson, have male cashiers or supervisors and this makes women uncomfortable. I don't accept men in these shops," said Awadia Mustafa, another resident.

Yet another resident, L. Al Shamsi, said: "How can I walk around covered from head to toe and discuss the size and material of undergarments with strange men. Isn't that odd? How can I accept a strange man talking to me about intimate wears and ask me what my size is?"

She claimed that many shops employ females to get the licence, but have male managers or cashiers sitting around in the shop. "How can I show male cashiers the undergarment pieces to scan it for making the payments?"

Echoing similar concerns, Maha Khalifa said she found it difficult to shop for private clothes from stores that had a lingerie section with male employees. "The odd thing is that they have women at the cashier desk. Why can't they have females in the female section?"

Some residents said any shops selling items meant for women must have female staff. A resident, Samah Sultan, said: "In my opinion, shops that sell cosmetics, abaya or garments must have female salespersons."

Male shoppers voice concern

Some male residents Khaleej Times spoke to said they prefer to interact with women to buy garments for their wives. Ameer S, a resident, said he found it "indecent" to discuss his wife's undergarment choices with other men. "My wife, who stays in my home country, asks me to buy such items of clothing for her. I have to go to these shops and find it embarrassing to talk to men."

Another resident, Khalid, said: "I never step into a lingerie shop that has male sales staff or male cashiers to shop for my wife or daughters who live in my home country. If they lived here, I wouldn't even come to these shops."

Shops that flout rules are fined, ordered shut: SEDD

An official at the Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD) said violations of male staff being employed at lingerie and undergarment shops have decreased as licences are not issued if females are not employed.

"Continuous inspections are carried out by the authorities and complaints from the public are taken seriously. Some shops flout rules when their female staff go on leave and they keep temporary male staff," said the official.

"We also ensure that the shops do not promote indecency. Displaying women's clothes in an indecent manner is not allowed in Sharjah."

Shopkeepers in the emirate who fail to employ female staff are subjected to fines and even closures. All shops selling women's items have been notified by the SEDD to employee women.

"The shops in the emirate will be fined heavily if they fail to employ female staff to handle female customers for lingerie items," the official added.

Keeping with the norms of the country, intimate wear shop owners must understand that keeping male staff would affect the business adversely as female customers are reluctant to explain their preferences to men, said a shop owner, who chose to remain anonymous.

"When the ban was introduced, several businesses were affected. However, now it has become normal as the authorities do not issue licences to businesses that don't comply with the rules."

Another shop owner, Ishaq Khan, said a large number of men from expatriate communities who have their families back in their home countries come to buy undergarments. "I have two female employees in the shop and a female cashier just to make women feel comfortable and sustain my business. My work is only supervision," he said."

This article has been adapted from its original source. 

Copyright © 2019 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved.

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