Member seeks restrictions on working hours for women

However after much discussion by others in the FNC, Sultan Al Shamsi pulled the proposal and it will not be sent to the Cabinet.

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ABU DHABI // A Federal National Council member called on the Government to prohibit women from working after 10pm in male-dominated shisha cafes for religious and moral reasons.

Sultan Al Shamsi (Ajman) said the labour law stated that women should not work between 10pm and 7am in any job, except with an exemption from the Ministry of Labour.

As a result, in 1980 the ministry exempted the rule for women working in the hotel industry, restaurants and music bars.

In response, Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Labour, said there were 377,000 women working in the private sector, about 25,600 of whom work in the exempted industries.

He said this was a reasonable number since the country had an abundance of hotels and cafes.

He added that the ministry also held thousands of inspections yearly to ensure women were not exploited.

Last year, 46 women were reported for working illegally at night.

Mr Al Shamsi said there were huge numbers of women working in male-dominated coffee shops.

He said if they worked in family oriented places it would make perfect sense, otherwise it was morally, socially and religiously harmful to society and the women themselves.

He said these places were mostly located in industrial areas and in villas in residential areas.

Mr Al Shamsi said that while the ministry provided women with exemptions, it did not specify timings and places or nature of work.

“This is a breach of the law,” he said. “We are talking about women waiting on men until 1am or 2am.”

The minister told Mr Al Shamsi to provide any information he had about unlawful practices. He added that this was something the ministry would study in the future if it was, in fact, a new trend.

“We are ready to study this phenomena and see how widespread and how troubling it is,” Mr Ghobash said, adding that he would look into reviewing the current exemptions.

A number of members opposed Mr Al Shamsi’s request, including Sultan Al Dhaheri (Abu Dhabi), Noura Al Kaabi (Abu Dhabi) and Dr Mona Al Bahar (Dubai), and each one put forth a different reason.

Ms Al Kaabi said she had yet to see a shisha cafe with only male customers. She added that women also smoked shisha. Dr Al Bahar said there were other practises that the council should stand against, such as teenage smoking. Mr Al Dhaheri said such a decision was regressive.

Mr Al Shamsi eventually withdrew the proposal.