If you’ve been living in Saudi Arabia for quite some time, then you should already be familiar with some of the do’s and don’ts in the Kingdom. In recent months, however, the country’s leaders have been discussing new laws regarding public decorum or “decency.”
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A few months ago, in March, the Shoura Council approved a draft law to “preserve public decorum and combat its abuse.” The draft consists of 10 articles that emphasize good manners and ethics in society. It also highlights the need to avoid bad behavior in public.
Saudi Arabia to Enforce Law on Public Decency
Last month, the Saudi Gazette reported that the executive regulations of the public decency law would come into force on May 25. These shall be applicable to all who frequent public places in the Kingdom, where everyone must respect the local culture, values, and customs.
The law defines public decorum as “a set of behaviors and ethics that reflect the values of the society and its principles and identity, in accordance with the fundamental principles stated in the Kingdom’s Basic Law of Governance.”
Anyone who violates the law shall be fined up to SAR 5,000. This amount will be doubled in case of a repeat violation within one year after committing the first. Those who get penalized would have the option to appeal to the specialized administrative court.
What are the rules under the public decency law? Basically, it prohibits:
- Wearing indecent clothing or garments with improper/offensive designs;
- Wearing shorts (for men) or going out in public in white underwear garments;
- Entering a mosque while wearing dirty clothing;
- Pulling pranks on women and kids or putting them in situations that may scare/endanger them;
- Using racist language, calling people names, or engaging in any form of bullying;
- Taking pictures or videos of people without their consent:
- Playing loud music or making any disruptive sounds;
- Cutting in line or crossing into a queue in a public space;
- Writing or drawing on walls of public places without permission from authorities; and
- Putting up advertisements (e.g. posters) in front of homes or on cars.
The law defines “public places” as those that are accessible to the public for free or in exchange for payment. These include beaches, cafes, cinemas, commercial complexes, hotels, markets, museums, restaurants, roads, theatres, walkaways, and modes of transport.
However, it must be noted that the above regulations have not been officially enforced yet. As of May 27, the Saudi Gazette reported that the procedures for implementing the law are still being studied, according to an official source from the Ministry of Interior.
The source stated that implementation of the public decency law shall be announced as soon as the procedures have been finalized and completed.
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Although the public decency law has yet to be officially enacted, it helps to be aware of its specific rules and regulations. This way, we can avoid any unnecessary problems, especially when out in public. Meanwhile, here is a list of prohibited and restricted items in Saudi Arabia, for those who are just planning to live and work in the Kingdom.