(MENAFN - Arab News) A stormy discussion on working women between Labor Minister Adel Fakeih and a group of 200 persons who call themselves Mohtasebon (volunteers to promote virtue) raged on Tuesday at the ministry headquarters for more than an hour. The group advised the minister to reconsider his decision.
"Women are allowed to work, according to the Shariah. Since the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), women have been buying and selling in the markets, and it is the right of our women to have the opportunities to do decent jobs," the minister said.
The group accused the minister of violating the highest authority in the Kingdom, the Board of Senior Ulema, describing the decision as "corrupt and debauched."
The minister, on his part, acknowledged there were some mistakes that would be dealt with in the coming days, adding that his ministry had moved women working on open streets to an organized sector and is charged and trusted with the employment of women according to defined controls, so that they live a good, honest life with integrity.
The group based its allegations on three points, said the minister. The first is that they are against women working in the retail sector in general. Second is the existence of many irregularities, to which the minister said: "We are annoyed, but humans are exposed to errors. Also, we are not responsible for the wrong practices of employers." He said all parties concerned should join efforts to prevent any errors and correct them if they happen.
The third point is that citizens accused him of bad intentions as well as working toward the alienation of women. "Only God knows the intentions of humans," he replied.
The minister referred to the closure of some big commercial centers for violating the guidelines on women's work.
"This confirms the approach of the ministry to punish the offenders. Recently, we added a number of inspectors to support the ministry's work by following up the markets and monitoring them, as well as setting up a free phone line and e-mail to receive any complaints."
He did not elaborate on the case filed against the ministry, explaining the court would rule between the two disputing parties.
"The right and civilized way to object to our decisions is through the court of grievances and the administrative court, which rules on issues relating to ministries and government departments. We will comply to the court decision only," said the minister.
He announced a number of initiatives for women the ministry intends to launch during the coming period, such as telework for women, part-time jobs, and the productive families program.