A top Saudi cleric has scolded women who visit male doctors without being accompanied by a male guardian, claiming that is prohibited by Islam, Al-Hayat daily reported on Thursday.
His remarks follow the death of a university student last week after paramedics were denied access to her campus because they were not accompanied by a male guardian, or close relative, a must according to the strict segregation rules in the Muslim kingdom.
"Women are becoming negligent in consulting doctors without a mahram (male guardian), and this is prohibited," Al-Hayat quoted Sheikh Qays al-Mubarak, a member of the Council of Senior Ulema (Muslim scholars), as saying.
A medical check-up could include "a woman showing parts of her body to a doctor. This is not permissible... unless urgent," he said.
Women "must seek help from a male doctor only when a female medic is not available. When this happens, they must not be alone and the doctor must only look at the pain" part of the body, he said.
The Council of Senior Ulema is the highest religious authority in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Al-Hayat said the religious police in Eastern Province have enforced restrictions on women entering several private medical centres without a male guardian.
"Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have entered a health and diet centre and prevented women from consulting a male dietician without the presence of a mahram," Al-Hayat reported.
AFP could not immediately verify these allegations.
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