This section highlights the government’s efforts to protect and promote human rights through stable laws and regulations, preserve the rights of women, children, expatriate workers, and individuals with disabilities. This segment specifies the factors of equality and non-discrimination, gender equality, combating discrimination and gender equality in the workplace, equality related to aspects of education, grants and subsidies, and health services in the Kingdom, in addition to entities and institutions dedicated to the preservation and protection of human rights.
Since its unification by the founding king, King Abdul-Aziz - may God have mercy on him - the state has ensured that the human being, whether citizen or resident, adult or child, is protected. In the system of government, Article (8), “Governance in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on justice, consultation, and equality, in accordance with Islamic law,” and Article (26) thereof, which states: “The state protects human rights in accordance with Islamic law.”
Within the Basic Law of Governance are basic principles and provisions aimed at protecting and promoting human rights. These principles and provisions in their entirety represent the legal framework for human rights, and the system has affirmed a number of basic rights, including: the right to justice, equality, security and respect for private property. Other regulations such as labor, health, education, social security and other laws and regulations included detailed provisions for the principles contained in the Basic Law of Governance.
Laws and Regulations for Equality, Anti-discrimination and Human rights
The Abuse Protection System
The system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stipulated protection from harm of all kinds, providing the necessary assistance and treatment, as well as shelter, social and psychological care for its victims, taking the necessary legal measures to hold the perpetrator accountable and punishing him or her. This is in addition to spreading awareness among community members about the concept of victimization and its implications, and addressing behavioral phenomena in society, which predict the existence of an appropriate environment for the occurrence of cases of abuse. The system has also required everyone who has heard of a case of abuse to report it immediately to the competent security or health authorities or private authorities, and set a special provision requiring every civil or military public employee and every worker in the private sector to know a case of abuse - By virtue of his work - informing his employer of the case upon his knowledge of it, and his side shall inform the competent authority or the police of the case of abuse immediately upon knowledge of it. The system also emphasized that it is impermissible to disclose the identity of the person reporting a case of abuse without his or her consent, or in the cases specified by the executive regulations of the system.
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Child Protection System
The system is concerned with the protection of every person under the age of eighteen years, and aims to confront the abuse - in all its forms - and the neglect that the child may be exposed to in the surrounding environment, stressing the rights of the child established by Islamic law and decided by the international regulations and agreements to which the Kingdom has become a party. The law stipulates that a number of acts are considered as harm or neglect of the right of the child, including causing interruption of his or her education, mistreatment, harassment or exposing him or her to exploitation, the use of offensive words that degrade his or her dignity, and discrimination against him or her for any ethnic, social or economic reason. At the same time, the system prohibits the production, publication, display, circulation, and possession of any work directed at the child that addresses or provokes his or her instincts with a manner that adorns his or her behavior contrary to Islamic law, public order or public morals.
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The Disabled Care System
This system includes provisions that protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. The system defines both the disabled and the disability. The system does not only provide for the treatment aspect, but it takes the preventive aspect into account, as Article (2) stipulates that: “The state guarantees the right of the disabled to care, prevention and rehabilitation services, and encourages institutions and individuals to contribute to charitable work in the field of disability ...", and the system came in line with relevant international standards.
For more on the rights of people with disabilities in the Kingdom, visit this page.
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Freedom of Opinion and Expression System
It is a system that protects freedom of opinion and expression, and at the same time reinforces the principle of the statutory restriction of freedom of expression consistent with the relevant international standards, in order to provide protection for the rights of others to ensure that they are not violated. This system has been amended recently to achieve the development of its provisions to achieve its goal.
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Anti-trafficking Crimes System
The system - based on international and regional standards to combat crimes of trafficking in persons - prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons described in the Protocol to Prevent and Punish Human Trafficking, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol), and added other forms not included in the Protocol, namely conducting medical experiments and begging. The system defined criminal descriptions of various forms of trafficking in persons, as well as penalties of up to (15) years imprisonment and a fine of up to (one million riyals), which is tightened in certain cases in which the victim is a woman or a child. Also, it emphasized on the principle of non-admission of the victim's consent in any of the crimes stipulated in the law.
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It is one of the systems supporting the judicial system. The motive for issuing it was the follow-up of the implementation of some judicial rulings related to personal status and money issues to ensure their speedy implementation. The execution judge has the authority to enforce the compulsory execution and supervise its procedures, and settle execution disputes regardless of their value, as well as issue decisions and orders related to execution. He has the right to seek the assistance of the competent authorities. The system has assigned the implementation of judgments, decisions and documents documented from a foreign country to the execution judge.
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Expatriates Rules and Regulations
The aim of this regulation is to regulate the relationship between the employer and the domestic service worker by clarifying the rights and obligations of the parties. One of the most important things it contained is that it obligates the employer not to assign the domestic service worker to work that is not agreed upon in the contract or to work that threatens his or her health, or affects his or her dignity or to work for others. It also required the employer to pay the worker the agreed-upon wage at the end of each month without delay, with documenting the worker’s receipt of his monthly wage in writing. This is in addition to the necessity to provide adequate housing for the domestic worker, and to enable him or her to enjoy a daily rest for a period of not less than nine hours per day, and a weekly vacation according to what both parties agree - and his or her eligibility in the event of illness - to obtain paid sick leave, and to obtain leave for a period of one month paid if he or she completes a period of two years at work for the employer. The worker is entitled to an end-of-service reward after the end of the contract in the event that he or she completes a period of four years working for the employer. The articles of the regulations also included provisions requiring the domestic service worker to respect the teachings of the Islamic religion, the regulations in force in the Kingdom and the culture of the Saudi society, and his or her commitment to performing the work in accordance with what was agreed upon in the work contract concluded with the employer. The regulation also included a number of penalties that are applied to all whoever violates the provisions contained therein by the two parties.
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The Kingdom's laws require all State agencies to do justice to a person, regardless of his or her religion, race, gender, or nationality. In the event that any of these entities or their representative breaches the realization of one of the rights, whoever violates the right has recourse to any of the following entities:
- Judicial authorities.
- Relevant government departments.
- Governmental and non-governmental human rights institutions.
- District governors (administrative governors).
- The King’s Council and the Crown Prince’s Council.
The State worked to preserve all women's rights, and issued decisions and orders related to that, most notably:
- Not to require the woman to obtain the approval of the guardian when providing services to her or to complete the procedures related to her, unless there is a legal basis for this request.
- The government agencies take the necessary measures to facilitate the provision of appropriate transportation for the entity’s female employees, according to the available capabilities, with an emphasis on the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to oblige employers to provide transportation means for women workers in accordance with the provisions of the Labor Law.
- Supporting the Human Rights Commission - in coordination with the concerned government agencies - to develop the necessary programs to introduce the international conventions to which the Kingdom has joined, by setting up a comprehensive plan to raise awareness of women’s rights through the media and educational and training institutions, and this should include the provisions it has made in those agreements, and the nature of the Kingdom's obligations in these agreements.
- Emphasis on all government agencies that provide services to women by publishing the instructions and applicable procedures for those services on their official sites.
- Allowing women to drive and approving the application of the provisions of the Traffic Law and its implementing regulations - including the issuance of driving licenses - to both males and females.
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The systems of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, derived from Islamic law, adopt the principle of complementary equality between men and women, that take into account the characteristics of each gender, by which they differ from the other. This shall ultimately achieve justice. The Kingdom believes that the integrative relationship between both genders is an ideal way to promote and protect human rights including women's rights and the elimination of discrimination against them. It should be noted that the definition of the term “discrimination against women” contained in Article (1) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is consistent with what is in force in the Kingdom, as the Kingdom’s laws do not include any discrimination, exclusion or restriction that result in undermining the recognition of women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields.
The principle of equality, which is fundamentally the opposite of discrimination, including discrimination against women, and contained in Article (8) of the Basic Law of Governance, which stipulates that “Governance in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shall be based on justice, consultation, and equality, in accordance with Islamic Sharia.” - implicitly - in Article (26) of the law which stipulates that “the State shall protect human rights in accordance with Islamic law,” and other principles and provisions contained in the Basic Law of Governance, and the kingdom’s regulations emanating from it are in line with relevant international standards, and that these provisions criminalize discrimination and violence against women. It is concerned with the activation of institutions that have been created or supported in their establishment for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights, including the rights of women, such as the Human Rights Commission, the National Society for Human Rights and other institutions, in addition to the existing government agencies.
It should be noted that most areas of human rights have absolute equality between men and women, such as the rights to work, education, health, economic rights and others.
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Gender Equality and combating discrimination in the workplace
The labor system does not differentiate between women and men in rights and duties. Likewise, there is no discrimination in wages when the value and quality of work is equal. The Kingdom is one of the countries joining the International Labor Organization Convention No. (100) concerning the equality of men and women workers of equal value, and Convention No. (111) Concerning discrimination in employment and occupation. The Ministerial Resolution No. 2370/1 was issued on 9/18/1431 AH corresponding to 08/28/2010 AD, emphasized the prohibition of all wage discrimination between male and female workers for work of equal value.
We also find that there is complete equality between men and women in the search for work subsidy, whereby women receive the same amount of aid that men receive, as well as with regard to the training and employment support provided by the Human Resources Development Fund to those who are employed - women and men - in the private sector, whether in terms of the amount of support for training costs, remuneration, or duration of support. The labor system has also been amended to ensure equality between men and women in rights, duties, and conditions of service, as it was emphasized that work is a right for citizens. Discrimination on the basis of gender is not permissible. Added to that, the equality in the retirement age between men and women, which is (60) years old. The amendments also included confirmation banning on dismissing the worker or warning her of dismissal while she is pregnant or enjoying maternity leave. This includes the period of her illness arising from either of them. The social insurance system has also been amended.
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Equality in the various fields
Equality in education
The laws of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia guarantee all citizens the right to education free of charge without any discrimination. Article 30 of the Basic Law of Governance stipulates that "the State provides public education and is committed to combating illiteracy." The Kingdom's belief is in the importance of the role of education in achieving sustainable development and realizing human rights. Many efforts have been taken to provide education and combat illiteracy on the basis of gender equality.
In this regard, it is important to note that the educational system in the Kingdom is fundamentally based on equality between men and women in all its aspects, whether it is related to admission and enrollment processes, or with regard to curricula, exams, or what is related to the qualifications of teachers and lecturers, as well as the quality of educational facilities and equipment. Indeed, women have received more attention in this aspect, such as positive discrimination, especially with the continued establishment of a number of university cities for girls, such as Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University, and university cities affiliated with Imam Muhammad bin Saud University and King Saud University.
With regard to literacy programs, the Kingdom has paid special attention to this field, in line with its aspirations set out in successive development plans with regard to reducing the rate of illiteracy among women through legislative and non-legislative measures and activating those measures, most notably the implementation of the decision on compulsory education and the establishment of a government administration for adult education. It is concerned with preparing adult education plans and programs, and expanding the spread of general education schools in remote villages. This is in addition to the opening of literacy centers in women's reformatories, homes for girls, homes for the elderly women, charities and societies for memorizing the Holy Quran. The Ministry of Education has launched a number of flexible programs aimed at reaching the target females in their places, such as the Society Without Illiteracy Program, the City Without Illiteracy Program, and the (Alnoor Caravans) project, which uses technology in teaching through mobile cars equipped as classes with computers that travel in villages to eradicate illiteracy and educate rural women. The Learned Neighborhood Program, and the Summer Campaigns Project for Awareness and Literacy are projects that provide financial rewards to the beneficiaries to encourage them, and support services, such as school supplies, transportation and others.
Equality in grants and subsidies
The existing programs are based on providing educational and training opportunities for both genders on an equal footing, and in accordance with the same legal requirements related to the admission procedures. The percentage of scholarships directed to females has increased significantly, whether in relation to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques' foreign scholarship program, or with regard to internal scholarships in Saudi universities. The number of female students studying abroad in 2015 reached (34,674) students, an increase of (27%) compared to their numbers in 2008, which reached (8128) students in that year. The number of female graduates in the scholarship countries in 2015 reached (3720) female students, an increase of (28%) compared to their number in 2008, which reached that year (201) female students.
Equality in health services
Article 31 of the Basic Law of Governance affirmed the right to receive health care for both men and women, as it stipulated: “The State cares for public health and provides health care for every citizen and his family in cases of emergency, illness, disability and old age.” In this regard, it must be noted that this right is one of the basic rights associated with every person. All of the Kingdom's regulations and procedures in force in the health field guarantee the empowerment of women to receive health care, and there is no restrictive condition for exercising this right. This right is guaranteed to resident foreign women in the Kingdom, through the cooperative health insurance system, and other related systems. Indeed, the regulations in force in the Kingdom oblige government hospitals to provide the necessary health services for an emergency, regardless of their gender or statutory status.
Critical health cases are also received in the emergency departments of governmental and private hospitals, regardless of any consideration beyond the present case. As for the regular health cases for regular residents, they are governed by the cooperative health insurance system, which aims to provide and regulate health care for all residents in the Kingdom. It is worth noting that the expatriates ’commitment to the residency and work systems enables the concerned authorities to provide and protect their rights, including the right to health.
Human Rights Entities and Institutions
Many governmental and non-governmental institutions have been established that are concerned with protecting and promoting human rights or specific rights thereof, in addition to the responsibilities of government agencies primarily concerned with the implementation of human rights, each in his field of competence, and these institutions include:
Human Rights Commission
Human Rights Commission was established by the decision of the Council of Ministers to be a government agency directly related to the king concerned with the protection and promotion of human rights in accordance with international standards in light of the provisions of Islamic law. Its organization has granted it broad powers that allow it to perform its duties independently and freely, and among the most prominent of these powers are the following:
- Ensuring that the concerned government agencies implement the applicable laws and regulations regarding human rights, uncover abuses that constitute a violation of human rights, and take the necessary legal measures in this regard.
- Expressing opinion on draft regulations related to human rights.
- Following up to government agencies to implement the relevant international human rights rules to which the Kingdom has joined, and to ensure that those authorities take the necessary measures to implement them.
- Visiting prisons and detention centers at any time without permission from the competent authority and submitting reports on them to the Prime Minister.
- Receiving complaints related to human rights, verifying their validity, and taking legal action regarding them.
- Establishing the general policy for developing awareness of human rights.
It should be noted that the commission submitted its (first) report on the human rights situation in the Kingdom, which included the observations it had monitored related to the implementation by government agencies of the kingdom’s obligations under international human rights standards, and the complaints it had received in this regard, especially with regard to prisoners and the detainees. This is added to the right to resort to justice and equality, to protection from abuse and torture, to ensure physical integrity, the right to reputation and dignity, the right to freedom of movement, issues of nationality and residence, and other basic rights, in addition to what is related to the right to work and social care, health care, protection from family violence, and other economic, social and cultural rights, in addition to all that is related to the rights of special groups, including women, children, people with disabilities and the elderly.
The Commission's services include:
- Request Advice or Support on Human Rights Issues
- Participation in Organizing a Conference, Seminar, or Training Course
- Awareness-Raising Lecture on Human Rights
- Awareness Corner on Human Rights
- Expressing Opinion Concerning Draft Declarations and Guides as Well as Regional and International Strategies
- Expressing Opinion on International Instruments
- Preparing the Kingdom Reports
- Reviewing an Existing Law
- Awareness-raising Newsletters, Magazines, and Publications
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Permanent Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons Crimes
The committee was formed according to a cabinet decision headed by His Excellency the President of the Human Rights Commission, and its membership includes representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Social Affairs, Labor, Culture and Information, and the Investigation and Public Prosecution Commission. This committee is considered one of the most important national entities for implementing the “anti-trafficking in persons ". it is concerned with various missions as follows:
- Following up with victims' conditions to ensure they are not abused again.
- Establishing a policy that urges the active search for victims and training law enforcement personnel on means of identifying them.
- Coordination with the competent authorities to return the victim to his original home in the country of his or her nationality or to his or her place of residence in any other country whenever requested.
- Recommending that the victim remain in the kingdom and adjusting his or her statutory status to enable him or her to work if necessary.
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National Society for Human Rights
It is a national, non-governmental institution that has no affiliation with any government entity. It enjoys complete independence in all its affairs. It is concerned with protecting, promoting and defending human rights, whether a citizen, resident or visitor, and deals with government agencies, non-governmental and international organizations in a way that achieves the goals they set according to its basic system.
Among its most main missions:
- Ensuring that what is stated in the Basic Law of Governance and in the Kingdom's internal regulations related to human rights is implemented.
- Ensuring that the Kingdom fulfills its obligations regarding human rights issues, in accordance with international and regional human rights standards.
- Receiving complaints and follow up with the competent authorities, and investigating claims of human rights violations and abuses.
The association is represented by academic members and specialists in various fields related to human rights, both men and women. It issues annual reports dealing with the human rights situation in the Kingdom. The most recent of which is its third report on the human rights situation in the Kingdom under the title “Ambition of a leadership and poor performance of agencies.”
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King Abdul-Aziz Center for National Dialogue
It aims to address national issues, on top of them are human rights issues, through transparent and objective dialogue in which all members of society in all its spectrums and components contribute. Among its objectives is to create an appropriate and suitable environment for exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The Center has held many national meetings in various regions of the Kingdom that dealt with important topics including: women and their rights and duties, education: reality and means of development, areas of work and employment, and human rights.
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Control and Anti-Corruption Authority
The authority is directly related to the king. It has legal personality and financial and administrative independence in a way that guarantees carrying out its work with impartiality and without influence from any party. It aims to protect integrity, promote the principle of transparency, and combat financial and administrative corruption in all its forms, manifestations and methods. Its competence includes following up the activity of all government parties without exception, and companies in which the State owns 25% or more. Among its competencies is the follow-up of the implementation of orders and instructions related to public affairs and the interests of citizens in a manner that ensures compliance with them, investigating aspects of financial and administrative corruption, and taking the necessary legal measures
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Family Safety Program
This is a national non-governmental program that aims to protect the family from violence, by monitoring and studying cases of abuse, informing the competent authorities in this field, and raising awareness about the acts of violence. The program adopts the National Register of Child Abuse and Neglect Cases in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Health Sector, which is an electronic central record that is highly developed in which demographic, diagnostic and therapeutic data and referrals are entered by child protection centers directly over the Internet when monitoring cases of child abuse and neglect. They are updated continuously, with the aim of coming up with annual statistics that contribute to preparing an integrated vision for makers of child protection strategies in the Kingdom.
The child support hotline (116111) is one of the most prominent mechanisms implemented under the program, which aims to support children under the age of eighteen who are exposed to abuse or neglect or problems that may affect their growth and development. This hotline provides free counseling services for children and their caregivers. It also transfers cases that require intervention to the authorities concerned with child care.
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Family Affairs Council
The council is responsible for taking care of family affairs, and it consists of technical committees, including the Childhood Committee, the Elderly Committee, and the Women's Committee. A committee has been established to deal with family protection within the council's committees, and among its most main functions are:
- Preparing a family strategy project in coordination with the relevant authorities, submitting it to complete the regular procedures, following up on their implementation and evaluating them periodically.
- Working for governmental and private agencies related to the family to fulfill their roles, achieve their goals, and coordinate between them; to form a common vision for the family.
- Raising awareness of the rights and duties of family members in Islam.
- Determining the problems and risks that the family is exposed to, and working to develop appropriate solutions to them.
- Raising community awareness of the importance of family issues, and ways to address them.
- Encouraging civic participation in caring for family issues, and proposing solutions to deal with them.
- Providing opinion to the concerned authorities on the national reports prepared on the family (childhood, women, and the elderly) in the Kingdom.
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