Women in Saudi Arabia need not wear a head-cover, or the black abaya, the Kingdom's Crown Prince has said
20 March 2018| Last updated on 13 November 2018
In what is another landmark change in Saudi Arabia, it has been announced that women in Saudi Arabia need not wear a head-cover or a black abaya, so long as their clothing is 'decent and respectful'.
The announcement made by the Kingdom's reform-minded Crown Prince is undeniably another step made as the country sees an expansion in women's rights, including the decision to allow women to attend mixed public sporting events, participate in the first all-woman marathon, and the right to drive cars from this summer.
"Saudi women still have not received their full rights. There are rights stipulated in Islam that they still don't have.
"The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of sharia (Islamic law): that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men," Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with CBS News, which aired late on Sunday 19th March, 2018.
"This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover. The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear."
His statements follow a senior cleric, who last month also said that women should dress modestly, but this did not necessitate wearing the abaya.
However, while recent changes have been hailed as proof of a new progressive trend toward modernisation in the conserative Muslim country, the nation still continues to be criticised for its constraints on women. Plus, it remains unclear if these statements prove that there will be a change in the enforcement of the women's dress code in Saudi Arabia.
Women's dress code in Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no written legal code to go accompany sharia texts in relation to how women should dress, but police and judiciary forces have long enforced a strict dress code in the nation, which requires Saudi women to wear abayas, and in many cases, cover their hair and faces.
Nonetheless, since the rise of the 32-year-old Crown Prince, the Kingdom has been witnessing a cautious new climate of social freedoms. So much so, that Saudi women have begun wearing more colourful abayas in recent years, the light blues and pinks in stark contrast with the traditional black.
Open abayas over long skirts or jeans are also becoming more common in some parts of the country.