Saturday, May 5, 2018

Does Saudi Arabia Retreat Separation Of Genders?

The Saudi government appears to have backed a new initiative calling for an end to the closure of shops at the time of prayer and segregation in public places, potentially divisive reforms for conservative Saudi Arabia.

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Okaz Journal said the "Quality of Life 2020" program to improve life in Saudi Arabia had indicated that these two standards required "immediate change" to increase people's participation in their activities and to boost investor confidence. The article was published on Friday but was later uploaded.

A copy of the document she referred to was seen by Reuters, but a different version, published on an official website that did not mention gender segregation or store closures, was among the reforms needed. No time frame has been set.

"We look at all the things that belong to the citizen and the resident, including things that are related to improving the lifestyle, such as the entry of families into sports stadiums and the leadership of women," Loay Bafakih, the program's chief executive, told Reuters by telephone on Saturday.

For decades, Saudi Arabia has imposed strict social norms, including banning alcohol, music, and mixing between the sexes.

Many of these things are now changing under the initiatives of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who curtailed the powers of the CPV in 2016 under ambitious social and economic reforms that included re-opening a movie house last month after a 40-year ban Years.

Saudi Arabia is expected to allow women to drive this summer but on condition. Saudi Arabia does not have a comprehensive codified law. Instead, Saudi Arabia relies on Islamic law, with police and the judiciary relying on social norms to enforce certain restrictions.

Analysts say there is no legal basis to enforce the closure of stores or the separation of the sexes.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue (CPV) is still scouring some public places, but no longer harasses people while they are in the streets at prayer time or private institutions intervene to enforce gender segregation. Many Saudis, especially in large cities, welcoming restrictions on the authority of The CPV.

Increasingly allowing incommunicado men and women to enter places for families in restaurants, gender segregation was no longer applied in public events.

Shops still close at prayer times for about 30 minutes but allow some customers to stay indoors and continue shopping.

No changes were made during an event on Thursday to celebrate "the Quality of Life" program, which includes support for entertainment, health, sports, and education.