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 Saudi Arabia
The Thomas Reuters Foundation surveyed 550 experts on women’s issues, ranking the worst countries for women’s rights. Out of 195 countries, Saudi Arabia ranked as the fifth most dangerous country for women in terms of the risks they face in cultural and religious practices, and second worst in terms of economic access and workplace discrimination. To get a better understanding of the hardships of Saudi Arabia, this article examines 10 facts about human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East and the home of Islam. While Saudi Arabia is known for its plentiful oil reserves, the country is also one of the most dangerous places to live in or travel to. Saudi Arabia is slowly improving in regards to women’s and children’s rights, but still has a lot of progress to make. 

Facts about Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

  1. According to Human Rights Watch, by mid-2016, nearly all of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association founders were imprisoned and sentenced to nearly 10 years for peaceful protesting. This is a common issue in Saudi Arabia, as people are punished for expressing their beliefs. Journalists, protesters, non-Muslims and women take a huge risk when they express themselves or call for reforms.
  2. Non-Muslims are not allowed to worship in public or display religious items, such as the Bible or a crucifix. Expressing different religious beliefs can result in jail time or the death penalty. This law is to prevent Muslims from converting to a different religion.
  3. There is little to no justice in Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system. Saudi Arabia does not have an official penal code; therefore, judges and prosecutors are allowed to improvise charges on the spot. In many instances, the suspect is not aware of the crime he or she is accused of, allowed access to evidence or allowed to have a lawyer support them during the trial. The Saudi religious establishment, ulama, believes there is no need for an official penal code because everything about law and punishment is stated in the Qur’an and Sunnah, the religious books of Islam.
  4. Women in Saudi Arabia face harsh restrictions, discrimination and punishment every day. Women are required to get permission from a man in order to do things such as travel, obtain a passport, work, sign contracts and get married or divorced. This man is known as the woman’s guardian and is usually a husband, father, uncle or brother. This makes it extremely difficult for women to feel safe and secure, especially because there is no law protecting women from their guardian. If a woman is a victim of domestic violence, she needs the male guardian’s permission to file the complaint, even if the complaint is against that man. However, in 2018, Saudi Arabia took a step forward by lifting the driving ban for women for the first time since 1990.
  5. One of the facts about human rights in Saudi Arabia is that there are no human rights groups. Human rights activists are imprisoned or sentenced to the death penalty for protesting or joining a human rights organization or group. The organization is usually shut down and banned from spreading awareness about their beliefs. 
  6. Human Rights Watch reported that 48 people were executed in Saudi Arabia in the first third of 2018, half of them for non-violent crimes. There have been nearly 600 executions since 2014. One can be executed for a “crime” as small as protesting or showing too much skin if one is a woman.
  7. In many areas of Saudi Arabia, men are allowed to marry a girl once she reaches puberty. Fortunately, according to the Middle East Monitor, girls under the age of 17 now have to present a marriage request from the girl and her family before the marriage can take place. Preventing child marriage is a work in progress in Saudi Arabia.
  8. No one is not allowed to eat pork in Saudi Arabia. Muslims are not to eat pork in keeping with their religious beliefs. If a person is not a Muslim or is a foreigner, they are still expected to not consume pork in the country. Only food that meets the guidelines of Islam is allowed into Saudi Arabia.
  9. As of 2017, nine million foreigners work in service and clerical jobs in Saudi Arabia, accounting for more than half of the workforce. Many of these workers face punishment or abuse during their jobs. Some employers will take away passports and paychecks to hold workers against their will. If workers are caught trying to leave the country, they face serious consequences.
  10. Women are not allowed to work in a job that a man would traditionally do. This means that women are limited to working in the education or medical fields. On the bright side, 38 women were elected to council in December 2015 for the first time ever. This gives women more opportunities and freedoms. While gender restrictions are slowly improving, women are still required to cover their skin fully while working on the job.

These facts about human rights in Saudi Arabia show the challenges and improvements regarding human rights in the country. Women are gaining more independence and children are being allowed to live their childhoods freely. While there is a lot of progress to make, Saudi Arabia is taking steps towards becoming a more equal and free country.

– Kristen Uedoi

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia, human rights are based off the Hanbali Islamic religious laws, which are under absolute rule of the Saudi royal family. Due to the strict regime of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, human rights in the nation have been ranked some of the worst in the world. However, due to a recent change of power, progress has been made in terms of human rights, especially for women. Here are 10 facts about human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Facts About Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

  1. On June 24, 2018, women gained the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman lifted the ban due to his 2030 Vision to have women ascend ranks in the workforce. Women 18 and older are able to now apply for a driver’s license, and driving lessons are offered by instructors that can even be women who obtained their license abroad.
  2. Male guardianship is a huge issue in Saudi Arabia. Every women has to have a “male guardian” that can be a husband, brother, father or son. These male figures have the authority to make decisions on the women’s behalf and decide if she can apply for a passport, get married, travel or leave prison. However, on April 2017, King Salman removed this restriction and gave women access to any government service without a “guardian” (unless it interferes with existing regulations). 
  3. Dress code is a strict part of the Islamic law, and women have traditionally been restricted against wearing makeup or clothes that show off their beauty. Instead, they have to wear some kind of opaque cloak to cover their body which does not prevent them from being harassed on the daily by religious police for being too “revealing”or wearing too much makeup.  
  4. Torture and other cruel treatments of detainees in Saudi Arabia are common practices. In fact, many human right defenders and critics of the system have been sent to prison or unfair treatment for their protestations, such as when authorities passed the “Counter-Terrorism” law.
  5. Competing freely in sports has been a struggle for women in Saudi Arabia. In 2015, Saudi Arabia proposed hosting the Olympics but without any women. When Saudi Arabia sent women to the Olympics in London in 2012, two of the women were labeled as “prostitutes,” had to cover their hair and be accompanied by a guardian. However, in September 2017, the national stadium in Saudi Arabia welcomed female spectators, but they were assigned their own section in the typically male-only venue.
  6. Discrimination exists for Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a minority. This Islamic sect faces prejudice that limits their right to express their belief, work and access state services. In fact, many of the Shi’a activists are continuously arrested, imprisoned and even killed.
  7.  Freedom of expression, association and assembly is a problem in Saudi Arabia as well. Authorities still continue to harass writers, online commentators, activists or anyone who express their views against government policies.
  8. Women still have restrictions on interacting with men. Women are required to limit the amount of time they spend with men who are not related to them. There are even separate entrances and exits for women and men in a majority of buildings, offices, universities and more. A person can be criminally charged if caught breaking this rule.
  9. Male and female swimming pools, spas and gyms are all separate. However, the Crown Prince aims to make Saudi Arabia more appealing for tourists and investors and is thus planning to create a resort that allows gender-mixing bathing, bikinis and alcoholic beverages.
  10. The death penalty in Saudi Arabia is still a major problem. The courts in Saudi Arabia still impose the death penalty for a variety of crimes. Many defendants that were sentenced to death were seen to have unfair trials, and cases have even occured where authorities fail to inform the families of their relatives’ executions.

Creating Change, One Supporter At a Time

Human rights in Saudi Arabia appear to be improving due to the 2030 Vision; however, there is still a long way to go. Continuous support from protestors and other countries is crucial for creating change in Saudi Arabia.

– Negin Nia
Photo: Flickr