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Overview of Human Rights Practices in Saudi Arabia

Overview of Human Rights Practices in Saudi Arabia

The Islamic religious laws form the basis of the human rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Scroll down to find an overview of human rights practices in Saudi Arabia.
Suganya Sukumar
"Human rights in the sense of human solidarity has created a new universal and equal language going beyond racial, gender, ethnic or religious boundaries. That is why we consider it a doorway to dialog for people of all socio-cultural groups and all ideologies." ~ Munir Said Thalib

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchical system of government, which is ruled by the Al Saud family. Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country and the people are governed under Islamic law Sharia and Basic law. The constitution of the country, is primarily according to the Quran and Sunna, which are traditions followed by Prophet Muhammad and his followers.

Human Rights Practices in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The inalienable fundamental rights to which every human being is entitled to in Saudi Arabia are specified in the article 26 that comes under the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia, which has 83 articles and is divided into 9 chapters. The Basic Law of Saudi Arabia, bears on the Islamic laws. Some of the human rights organizations in Saudi Arabia includes
  • Human Rights First Society (2002)
  • Association for the Protection and Defense of Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia (2007)
  • Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (2009)
  • National Society for Human Rights (2004)
Religious Freedom
Islam is the official religion in Saudi Arabia. Almost all the citizens in the country are Muslims. Proselytizing (act of converting people from one religion to another) is illegal and apostasy (renunciation of one's religion) is awarded the death penalty. Until 2010, there are no official reports of such deaths due to apostasy. Even though the government of Saudi Arabia guarantees that the right for non-Muslim religious worship would be protected, it is neither in practice not is it defined in its laws. Moreover, non-Muslim religious practices in public are severely restricted. As a matter of fact, religious freedom in Saudi Arabia doesn't exist.

Women's Rights
Women's rights in Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia and the tribal culture. The right to vote and right to be elected in political positions, is restricted for women. The only country in the world, where women are not allowed to drive is Saudi Arabia. Women are required to have a male guardian. Sex segregation and gender apartheid are commonly used terms to explicate the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. Even the literacy rate of women is less as compared to that of men in the country. The concept of Purdah which is a curtain used to almost completely cover the body, is enforced on women. After the 9/11 attacks, this enforcement is relaxed to some extent.

Freedom of Speech and Press
The broadcasting media such as television, newspapers, and radio are strictly monitored and restricted from broadcasting any information that is against Islam or the government. According to the legal system of Saudi Arabia, The Ministry of Culture and Information of the country has the rights and authority to control the newspapers, printing presses, licensing, and media information. In 2010, a man was jailed for boasting about his sex life on television and a blogger and reformist named Fouad al-Farhan, was jailed for passing comments that were critical of Saudi Arabian business and religious reforms. A person named Hadi al-Mutif was imprisoned for criticizing the judicial system of the country.

Political Rights
The Basic Law states that "the government is established on the principle of consultation (shura) and requires the king and crown prince to hold majlis meetings, open-door events where in theory any male citizen or foreigner may express an opinion or a grievance. A prince or other important national or local official can also hold a majlis". The people of the country can communicate with the government officials on any issues, but they don't have rights to change the government, in a peaceful manner.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in the country. LGBT rights are not recognized in the country. In 2000, 9 Saudi men were imprisoned and slashed for cross-dressing and homosexual activities. People are executed for sodomy, but the method of execution is unclear. Promoting gay rights in Middle-East countries is generally illegal and will cause high penalties.

The government and the people of Saudi Arabia are highly intolerable to child molestation, rape, sexual assault and murder, and the verdict of such crimes is death. The foreigners who live in Saudi Arabia, are also expected to adhere to the rules of the country.