I was surprised and even shocked when I wasn’t allowed to enter a billiard hall in Salmiya recently. I’ve been playing pool at this place for more than 10 years, my friend and I were barred, and were told that from now on, women are not allowed to enter. When we asked why, an employee showed us a memo issued by the owner banning women from entering the hall. The employee told us the owner received a fine from inspectors of the ministry of social affairs and labor for allowing mixed-gender gatherings in the hall.
“The decision caused me financial losses. Our place is for family entertainment and many of our visitors were families and even youngsters, but now we have lost those clients. My license for this hall was not renewed because of the fine I got for the violation, so I had to issue a memo and ban women from playing in the hall,” the owner told Kuwait Times.
In Kuwait, it is usually men who are discriminated against compared to women when it comes to entering various entertainment places. Most places are only for women or families, and “bachelors” are not allowed there. But women have never been banned from entering any place. These rules were set to avoid sexual harassment and fights. In the 1990s, single men were not even allowed inside shopping malls during the weekends, and even a popular supermarket applied this rule.
It is not fair as there are no billiard halls for women, so women won’t be able to play this game, as the ministry decree on which this ban is based conditions that entertainment halls should be either for men or women only and not mixed. So women should wait till a women-only billiard hall opens. Although the number of women playing pool is not so high, there are many women who love this game. Also, many of the main entertainment places in Kuwait have been closed or demolished, so leisure options for adults has become more limited.
Instead of banning women from playing pool due to the fear of causing problems or fights, the ministry should set rules to force billiard halls to hire security guards to ensure security and control any conflicts. But this decree is not applied in all pool halls. When visiting another billiard hall in Hawally, they let me in. When I asked if they were informed about the decree, the supervisor confirmed they had received it, but they make exceptions depending on the visitor. “For instance, if a group of teenage girls come to play, we won’t let them in, or if women are not wearing decent outfits, we also won’t let them in. Such visitors have the potential of causing problems, as the majority of our patrons are young guys. So we prefer to avoid problems,” the supervisor explained .
By Nawara Fattahova