Saudi Arabia's "public decency" law is currently being studied by authorities as to how it will be implemented. The legislation, which criminalizes any act deemed distasteful to the public, may take effect very soon across the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Its first article defines public decency as "a set of behaviors and morals that reflect the country's social norms, values and identity." Under the bill, immodest clothing, graffiti art, and several other acts may become illegal and may carry a fine of 5,000 riyals ($1,333).
Here's all you need to know about the law:
The legislation was officially passed on April 9
What's illegal under the law?
The law criminalizes bullying in all its forms including calling people names or using racist language in public. It also makes it illegal to subject women and children to pranks or any other situation that "can scare them or put them in danger." Playing loud music or making any disruptive sound in public is also prohibited.
As for outfits, wearing immodest clothing or garments with questionable prints on them is punishable under the law. For men, wearing shorts or walking in public in white underwear garments is also an offense.
In addition to the above, the law criminalizes crossing a queue in a public space, filming people without their consent, unlicensed graffiti art, putting up posters in streets, placing advertising brochures in front of homes or on cars, littering, and going into mosques while wearing dirty clothes.
The law affects a wide range of public spaces
Any place outside a person's home or personal space is governed by the "public decency law," including:
- All public transportation
- Educational facilities
- Medical facilities
- Shopping centers
- Sports stadiums
- Sports clubs/gyms
The authorities responsible for issuing fines under the legislation include the kingdom's Ministry of Interior and the country's Tourism Authority.
How are Saudis reacting to it?
News of the laws in the kingdom sparked a heated debate on social media.
Some were all for it and felt it was needed to curb inappropriate behaviors in public. A few particularly lauded the rules prohibiting bullying and verbal harassment in all its forms.
"Come on, girls. Let's report every man wearing shorts since they're happy about our tight living. Let's police them," a Twitter user humorously suggested.
However, not everyone was on the same page as many Saudis criticized the bill, labelling it vague and problematic.
"5,000 riyals is a bit too much, don't you think?" one online user wrote.
Others said the legislation was limiting personal freedoms and thought it's a step backward for the country.
While many also took to social media to troll some of the bill's clauses, especially ones that ban men from wearing shorts and pajama-like garments in public.
Editor's Note: A previous version of the article claimed that the law took effect.