26 January, 2015

Saudi Gazette | Businesswomen question ban on fitness centers, beauty clinics

Businesswomen question ban on fitness centers, beauty clinics
Mon, 05 Jan 2015 10:02:51 AST
Saudi Gazette | Saudi Gazette report

AL-KHARJ, Riyadh — The Ministry of Interior has issued a ban on women from running spas, beauty centers and women's sports facilities. Reacting to the ban, businesswomen in the industry demanded authorities reconsider, Al-Hayat daily reported.

The businesswomen said the ban has caused them great losses and put them under a great deal of stress. They questioned why they were granted licenses and permits to run their businesses only for the ban to be announced shortly after.

Elham Al-Sabki, a beauty center owner, said all of her efforts to gain permission from the municipality, Ministry of Health and the General Presidency of Youth Welfare have been wasted.

"We are desperate to regain our license from any authority. The General Presidency of Youth Welfare has sponsored male fitness businesses but it refuses to sponsor female ones as it claims it is not within their field of interest. We need a female department in the presidency in order to have our voices heard," said Al-Sabki.

"Fitness and beauty is more important to women than men. So how can we expect a woman to be beautiful with an attractive body if we don't provide the resources for her to work out? Moreover, the bureaucratic red tape involved in getting a license was exhausting and cost me more than SR300,000. They should have given us an alternative," she added.

Al-Sabki said in the past, businesswomen would apply to the Ministry of Health to get a license to run a physical therapy clinic and once granted, they would use the license to open a spa. However, the regulations have become stricter and this is no longer an option.

Lina Hijawi, also a beauty center owner, said she had to stop her plan to install a Moroccan bath after the decision to ban beauty centers was announced.

"Installing the bath cost me SR35,000 and some municipalities are applying the ban while others aren't. I had to close my spa and beauty center while women in nearby provinces are still running their clinics," said Hijawi. She added that banning an entire an industry is not a pragmatic move.

"If the reason for the ban is some inappropriate videos posted in these beauty centers, then banning is not the solution. The municipality should have regulated and set definite rules for running beauty centers," she said.

The committee of women businesses at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it was extremely disappointed by the municipalities' double standards and questioned why men were not subjected to a similar ban. The head of the committee, Jawaher Al-Aql, clarified that the Ministry of Interior is the authority that issued the ban.

"We will penalize the centers that violated the morals of this society but we cannot close down all of the shops. This will force women to enter a black market just to operate, making it a bigger problem to deal with than the current one," said Al-Aql.

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