Hesitant Saudi reforms on gender mixing and closure of businesses for prayers
05 May 2018
In a hesitant step, Saudi Arabia appeared heading towards more reforms on sensitive issues relating to gender mixing and the mandatory closure of businesses for prayers.
The Saudi government launched a 236-page document, Quality of Life Programme, reflecting the move of the government of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to ease social restrictions.
The Vision 2030 document aims to encourage women to join the workforce, while also identifying entertainment as a key sector for growth.
While the elaborate Quality of Life Programme document had references to “the intermingling of both genders to enhance social cohesion,’ and allowing stores to legally remain open during prayer times, the government has opted to soft pedal the dramatic reforms.
However, the references were buried deep in the 236-page document and officials refused to comment on it, according to agency reports. While they were not discussed at the news conference unveiling the document, some of the bolder proposals that were put up online were later withdrawn.
The conservative kingdom has of late seen dramatic changes with the government lifting the ban on cinemas, music concerts for both men and women and allowing women to drive.
And in an earlier interview to a television network, Mohammed had described those who forbid the mixing of the two sexes as “extremists” who were unable “to differentiate between a man and a woman alone together and their being together in a work place.”