FEMALE council workers in Saudi Arabia have been BANISHED from sitting in the same room as their male colleagues.
The women will also only be allowed to take part in council meetings by watching through CCTV and contribute by using a microphone.
The judgement will no doubt be considered a step back for the country after it elected its first female local councillors just two months ago.
It was decided after an argument erupted in the western city of Jeddah when two women refused to sit away from male council members for a meeting.
The females were told they could not sit with the men as some of the males had deemed mixing haram, or forbidden.
But the row escalated after the women refused to sit hidden from view behind a screen.
It was then decided days later that the women must be separated from the men, The Times reported, highlighting the everyday limitations females still face in Saudi Arabia on a daily basis.
It is not clear if the move affects women throughout Saudi Arabia.
The decision comes after the oil-rich nation saw the first Saudi woman win a council sear in the country’s first ever open election to female voters and candidates.
Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi was elected to the council of Madrakah, in the holy city of Mecca.
It was deemed a sensational victory in a country where women are barred from driving and are legally dependent on a male relative to approve almost all their major life decisions.
However, the election was for only two thirds of seats in municipal councils that have no lawmaking or national powers, and follows men-only polls in 2005 and 2011.
Otaibi won a seat in the Madrika district of Mecca, the holiest city of Islam, and where all the other successful candidates were men, the official Saudi Press Agency reported in a list of preliminary results.
Results from Northern Borders Province and the southwestern province of Asir, the only others to have been announced, had no successful women candidates.
Under King Abdullah, who died in January and who announced in 2011 that women would be able to vote in this election, steps were taken for women to have a bigger public role, sending more of them to university and encouraging female employment.
However, while women’s suffrage has in many other countries been a transformative moment in the quest for gender equality, its impact in Saudi Arabia is likely to be more limited due to a wider lack of democracy and continued social conservatism.
Before Abdullah announced women would take part in this year’s elections, the country’s Grand Mufti, its most senior religious figure, described women’s involvement in politics as “opening the door to evil”.