Saudi Arabia issues public behaviour code

Riyadh, Sep 29 (IANS) Saudi Arabia’s government has unveiled a series of public conduct rules that went into effect on Saturday and include fines for 19 different types of infractions, including playing loud music in residential neighbourhoods, not picking up pet waste and spitting in the street.

The new guidelines come at a time when the kingdom is opening up its doors to foreign tourism.

Also included in the list of infractions are “behaviours that are contrary to morality, including those of a sexual nature,” as well as playing music during the “call to prayer or during prayer,” the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement, Xinhua news agency reported.

Other punishable offences including littering, wearing clothing with phrases or images that promote racism or the consumption of prohibited substances or pornographic material and cutting in front of others in the line.

The ministry said those infractions will be punishable by fines ranging from 50 riyals ($13.33) to 3,000 riyals.

Most of those behaviours were already prohibited in Saudi Arabia, but no specific punishment had been provided and the decision had been left to a judge.

The ultra-conservative kingdom took a major step Friday in the opening to the world by authorizing the issuance of tourist visas to citizens of 49 countries, including the United States, nations that are part of Europe’s Schengen Area, Australia, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

It also stated that female visitors from other countries will not be required to wear the abaya, a body-shrouding robe that all local women must wear in public.

Even so, foreign women will need to dress “modestly,” said Ahmed al-Khatib, the chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

In an earlier move to diversify the kingdom’s economy, Saudi officials made special e-visas for sporting events or concerts available to foreign tourists last December.

In May, the Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia also approved a new “special residency” program for skilled foreigners that allows successful applicants to move freely and own property and replaced an old system that required ex-pats to have a Saudi sponsor or employer.

All of these projects form part of the Saudi Vision 2030 program, which was unveiled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and is aimed at reducing the kingdom’s dependence on oil.

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