Participants take photos next to a picture of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
(photo credit: FAISAL AL NASSER/ REUTERS)
A new public decency law in Saudi Arabia has many sound proposals for public interaction, including preventing men from wearing unsightly shorts, blasting loud and obnoxious music, playing pranks on kids and staring at strangers for more than five seconds, according to recent reports.
The New Arab reported that the law has many rules that also ban “immodest clothing” and also seeks to prevent men from wearing “white undergarments in public spaces.” The public decency law relates to a “set of behaviors and morals and reflect the country’s social norms, values and identity.” The law could result in fines up to 5,000 riyals or NIS 4,800. It affects public areas. “These include shopping centers, sports clubs and gyms, parks and restaurants,” the report says.
The Gulf Business website reported on the same law last month, noting it had not yet been implemented. It says there are ten new rules and that it covers such issues as “dressing respectfully, avoiding taking photos or using phrases that might offend public decency and refraining from creating graffiti.” It also seeks to stop verbal or physical acts of violence.
The Saudi Gazette agrees that decency needs to be enforced. A married couple was strolling down a picturesque area of Jeddah recently while people shouted at them and in another incident women were dancing in Abha, the article claims. “The gravest violations include bullying, use of obscene language, racist language or acts [such as] swearing words, harassment, making fun or mockery, disrespect to the physically challenged, the elderly, women or children.” Also littering will be prevented and the placing of annoying advertisements on public areas.
Some accounts see the law as part of a process by which religious police have seen their powers reduced while this law will now add a layer of “decency.” How exactly that will be enforced, or if it will, determines if a heavy-handed decency police is deployed, or if the law is primarily just a set of values. Either way, one should refrain from staring at people in the gym for more than five seconds, with or without police to prevent it.
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