Human Rights

This section highlights the government’s efforts to protect and promote human rights through stable laws and regulations, and 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 Saudi Arabia, in addition to entities and institutions dedicated to the preservation and protection of human rights.

Saudi Arabia has constantly strived to protect, promote, and bolster human rights for citizens and residents since its unification by the founding King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, may God have mercy on him. The Basic Law of Governance recognizes a number of fundamental concepts and measures aimed at protecting and bolstering human rights, such as the right to justice, equality, security, and respect.

According to Article 8 of the Basic Law of Governance, "governance in Saudi Arabia shall be based on justice, counseling, and equality, in accordance with Islamic law." According to Article 26 of the law, "the country shall protect human rights in accordance with Islamic law”. Other laws and regulations, such as those governing education, health, employment, social insurance, and other areas, contain detailed provisions for the principles outlined in the Basic Law of Governance.

Child Rights

The kingdom’s governance is underpinned by the principle of providing social care to all its citizens on an equal footing. The Basic Law of Governance reinforces this right and protects it as is stipulated in Article 10 “The country shall aspire to promote family bonds and Arab-Islamic values. It shall take care of all individuals and provide the right conditions for the growth of their talents and skills”.

The law guarantees all individuals comprehensive care and protection, giving special focus to child rights, requiring that free-of-charge healthcare be provided to children, including access to mandatory vaccinations as well as healthcare services free of charge. The law also guarantees a child’s right to free education for education and academic stages, in addition to employing curricula to achieve social and cultural development that ensures sound upbringing of children and encourages them to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. In addition, Saudi Arabia grants rewards to those who join university.

What are Child Rights?

A set of human rights for those under the age of 18 that take their nature and vulnerability into account. In general, children have rights -in addition to basic human rights- that take into account the children’s special needs that are proportionate to their age, vulnerability, and the importance of developing and supporting them. In Saudi Arabia, children have many rights, the most important of which are the right to life, the right to a name and nationality (right to identity), the right to education, food, health, freedom, and protection, which includes protection from physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect.

Child Protection Law

This law is concerned with protecting every person under eighteen years of age and confronting abuse of all types and neglect that a child may be subject to. The law emphasizes the child rights established under Sharia as well as other international regulations and conventions that Saudi Arabia has joined.

Key Child Protection Regulations

Regional and international child-related human rights instruments ratified by the Saudi Arabia 

- For more information on the Saudi Arabia's efforts towards children, click here.

Youth Rights

The government is keen to take care of the youth, empower them and provide them with more opportunities in all economic, political, social, and other fields. It constantly strives to provide safe, supportive, and stimulating environments for them for more comprehensive participation in everything related to their lives and hinders their enjoyment of their guaranteed rights in accordance with Saudi Arabia's regulations, and removes all barriers that limit their energies. Saudi Arabia 's Vision 2030 has motivated them, as young people are always at the forefront of activities and initiatives aimed at achieving the goals of the vision through their involvement in national projects, programs, and initiatives.

Youth Empowerment Programs and Projects

In order to promote the rights of young people in light of the Saudi Vision 2030, many programs and projects have been launched to empower them within the national transformation initiatives, with the aim of increasing their social participation and in the labor market, including programs to support youth employment provided by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, including:

  • Freelancing: An initiative that aims to organize and stimulate self-employment to contribute to creating job opportunities for Saudi men and women, which enables the issuance of freelance documents through quick and easy procedures, and benefit from the advantages and services provided, in addition to providing offers and discounts from success partners to facilitate the work of freelancers who hold self-employment documents.
  • Flexible work: A program that allows the Saudi job seeker and employer to negotiate a contract flexibly, where the wage is on an hourly basis (the lowest unit of wages) without committing to any extra perks where none exist (paid vacations, end-of-service gratuity, and the overtime system does not apply).
  • Remote Work: A program that aims to bridge the gap between employers and job seekers, who are prevented by several obstacles from obtaining suitable job opportunities.

- For more information on the Saudi Arabia's efforts towards youth, click here.

Women’s Rights

The government, has prioritized women and introduced significant reforms making historic strides in women’s rights. Undoubtedly, the achievements made in this were led by the Saudi Vision 2030 and further enabled by the legislative environment.

The Saudi Vision 2030 calls for full participation of women in the labor market, developing their talents, making the best of their potential, and enabling them to embrace the appropriate opportunities to build their future and contribute to the development of society and economy, devoting great focus to enablement and empowerment of women to enhance their role across all life arenas.

Key Measures and Decisions to Promote Women's Rights

Several judgments and rules have been adopted in recent years to promote women and defend their rights, the most notable of which are:

  • Law on protection from abuse, as well as its implementation regulations
  • Anti-harassment law
  • Alimony ratification
  • A dedicated center to receive domestic abuse reports
  • Establishment of the Family Affairs Council with one of its committees allocated to manage women's affairs
  • Establishment of personal status courts to consider family cases
  • The issuance of driving licenses for women
  • Establishment of female employment units in labor offices
  • Qurrah Program to support childcare for working women, Wusool program to support transportation of working women, as well as part-time and remote work opportunities
  • Allowing women to report births, marriages, divorces and Khol’ (women enforcing divorce by law)
  • Obtaining a passport without the consent of her guardian and traveling without a permit
  • The right to obtain a family record from the Civil Affairs office
  • Raising the retirement age for women from 55 years to 60 years, similar to that of men
  • Issuing guidelines to expedite the finalization and regulation of situations involving marriage prohibition (‘adol)
  • Prohibition of marriage of females under the age of 18 years
  • Not requiring women to obtain the consent of their guardian for receiving or canceling services

- For more on Women's Rights Click here

Senior Rights

Article Twenty-Seven of the Basic Law of Governance also stipulates that: "The country shall guarantee the right of the citizen and his family in the event of emergency, illness, disability and old age, shall support the social security system and encourage institutions and individuals to contribute to charitable work." This provision expressly refers to the country's care for seniors as they age. Article XXXI of the Basic Law of Governance stipulates that: "The Country shall be concerned with public health and shall provide health care to every citizen." Saudi Arabia  has also issued a special regulation for the elderly, the "Rights and Care of the Elderly."

Senior Rights Law and Welfare

The law was issued in accordance with Royal Decree No. (M/47) dated 3/6/1443 AH, which came to enhance the rights of the elderly in a manner that preserves their dignity, privacy and independence, and provides them with care and services. Saudi Arabia has also taken effective measures to prevent all forms of abuse and has made the practice of or contributing to acts of ill-treatment an offense punishable by Saudi Arabia 's regulations. The abuser has the right to resort to the competent authority to punish the abuser.

Key Rights of Older Peoples

  • The right to health of the elderly: enabling them to have access to appropriate health services and care, with the provision of food, clean drinking water, hygienic working conditions, an appropriate environment, awareness and information related to their health, and access to health services commensurate with their needs.
  • The right of older persons to be protected from abuse: that is, to protect them from any direct act that results in influencing the social status of the elderly
    and health and psychological.
  • The right of the elderly to social security: the right to country benefits for citizens who are unable to work from
    People with limited or no income. These subsidy programs target several groups of society, in accordance with the conditions and controls set by the social security system.

- For more information on Saudi Arabia's efforts towards the elderly, click here.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  Disability is a state of incapacity that an individual experiences as a result of a partial or total deficiency in physical, sensory or mental capabilities, which prevents or impedes the individual from performing his usual day-to-day activities. Disability includes the loss of an organ, sensory impairment, such as hearing or sight impairment. According to the World Health Organization, disability is defined as: “an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.”, while the Saudi legislator has defined disability in Article 1 of the Disability Law as “..to have one or more of the following impairments: Visual, hearing, mental, physical and motor disabilities, learning disabilities, speech disorders, behavioral and emotional disorders, autism, double and multiple disabilities, and other disabilities requiring special care”.

Saudi Arabia has taken care of persons with disabilities guaranteeing their access to all rights related to disability and supporting the services provided to them by providing all means of prevention, care and rehabilitation. Saudi Arabia has worked to build a protective wall through a set of medical, psychological, social, educational, media and regulatory measures that aim to prevent, reduce and enable early detection of disability as well as to reduce its effects. Saudi Arabia has ensured the provision of comprehensive care services to all who need care according to their health condition, degree of disability or social status. It has also made available all necessary medical, social, psychological, educational and vocational services to help disabled persons unleash their full potential, adapt to the requirements of their natural and social environment, develop their abilities to be self-reliant and productive members of society.

What are the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

The rights of persons with disabilities include all the rights and freedoms that must be guaranteed to persons with disabilities. Perhaps the key principle that underpins all of these rights is the principle of equality and non-discrimination, which is the basis upon which the right to education, work, healthcare and social protection are built.

Disability Law

This law contains provisions that safeguard and enhance the rights of people with disabilities. The law defined both the disabled person and the disability, and it went beyond the therapeutic aspect to the preventive aspect, as Article (2) states: "The Country guarantees the right of the disabled to care, prevention, and rehabilitation services, and encourages institutions and individuals to contribute to this right".

Key measures to protect the rights of persons with disabilities

- For more information about the Rights of People with Disabilities, click here.

Combating Human Trafficking

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has paid great attention to combating trafficking in persons and has worked to develop the necessary legal and institutional structure for that purpose. Saudi Arabia also focused on promoting the prosecution by establishing special prosecution offices in, all Public Prosecution branches to investigate these cases, as well as circuits in first instance and appeal courts to hear cases related to human trafficking crimes. The criminalization of human trafficking receives special national attention that aimed at accelerating combat efforts. In addition to the legal system, Saudi Arabia has acceded to multiple international conventions and protocols, and has also signed several memorandums of cooperation with relevant international organizations and agencies, in addition to local cooperation between the Human Rights Commission, government agencies and civil society organizations to strengthen efforts that aimed at preventing and combating human trafficking, and to take the necessary measures and actions at the national level to confront such crimes. 

Law for combatting Human trafficking

Based on international and regional standards to combat human trafficking, the law prohibits all forms of human trafficking described in the protocol to prevent and punish trafficking of persons, 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, soliciting, and the system specified criminal narratives of various forms of human trafficking, as well as penalties of up to 15 years in prison, and a fine of up to one million riyals, which tightens In certain cases where the victim is a woman or a child, the principle of non-consideration of the consent of the victim is also affirmed in any of the crimes stipulated in the Law.

Related national Laws:

Regional Agreements and Instruments which the Saudi Arabia has joined:

  • The Arab Protocol to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, Especially Women and Children, and the Arab Protocol to Prevent and Combat Maritime Piracy and Armed Robbery, annexed and complementary to the Arab Convention on Combating Transnational Organized Crime
  • The Arab Charter on Human Rights
  • The Arab Convention against Transnational Organized Crime of 2010
  • The Comprehensive Arab Strategy for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings
  • The Arab Model Law on Combating Human Trafficking
  • Abu Dhabi document on the Unified Law to Prevent Human Trafficking for GCC countries
  • GCC Human Rights Declaration

International Conventions and Instruments which the Saudi Arabia has joined:

  • The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime of 2000
  • The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime of 2000, which aims to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, especially to women and children
  • The United Nations Global Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons 2010, which is based on four main pillars: prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership
  • The Doha Declaration at the Thirteenth Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice of 2015., which calls for the implementation of a victim-oriented approach and aims to prevent and combat all forms of trafficking in persons
  • International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, agreements of ILO and other relevant organizations that the Saudi Arabia has ratified
  • Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labor Convention no. 29 of 1930

Equality and Non-discrimination

The laws of Saudi Arabia mandate all entities to do justice to everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, or nationality. If any agencies or their representatives infringes the realization of one of the rights, the violator can get recourse from 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

Gender equality

The laws and regulations of Saudi Arabia, which are based on Islamic law, adhere to the principle of supplemental equality between men and women, taking into account the characteristics that distinguish one gender from the other. This will eventually result in justice. Saudi Arabia believes that a collaborative relationship between men and women is the best way to promote and protect human rights, including women's rights and the abolition 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 Saudi Arabia, as Saudi Arabia ’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 inverse of discrimination, including discrimination against women, is mentioned in Article (8) of the Basic Law of Governance, which states that "Governance in Saudi Arabia shall be based on justice, consultation, and equality, in accordance with Islamic Sharia," and it is mentioned - implicitly - in Article (26) of the law, which states that "the Country shall protect human rights in accordance with Islamic Sharia", 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.

- To submit complaint on a human rights issue, click Here.

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 are equal. Saudi Arabia 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 and 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 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.

- To report a violation of labor regulations, click Here.

Equality in education

The laws 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 Country provides public education and is committed to combating illiteracy." Saudi Arabia '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 Saudi Arabia 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, Saudi Arabia 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 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 Saudi Arabia . 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

The Human Rights Commission was established under the "Regulation of the Human Rights Commission" issued by Cabinet Resolution No. (207) dated 8/8/1426 AH. The Commission aims to protect and promote human rights in accordance with international human rights standards in all fields, raise awareness of them and contribute to ensuring the implementation of this in light of the provisions of Islamic Sharia. The Commission is competent to express opinions and advice on human rights issues.

- To view the commission's e-services, click here
- To view the commission's annual reports, click here

The National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking

The National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking was formed by the Council of Ministers Resolution No. (244) dated 20/07/1430 AH approving the formation of a committee to combat human trafficking crimes affiliated with the Human Rights Commission. The Committee includes among its members representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Human Resources and Social Development, Media, Education, and Health, in addition to the Public Prosecution, and Human Rights Commission.

- For more information about the Committee, click here.

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 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 Saudi Arabia 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 Saudi Arabia . The most recent of which is its third report on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia under the title “Ambition of a Leadership and poor performance of Agencies”.

- To view more on the National Society for Human Rights, click here.

King Abdul-Aziz Center for National Dialogue

The center's goal is to address national concerns, particularly human rights challenges, through open and objective debate in which all members of society from all spectrums and components collaborate. One of its goals is to establish an appropriate and suitable atmosphere for exercising the right to free expression. The Center has organized numerous national meetings in various regions of the Saudi Arabia on significant themes such as women's rights and responsibilities, education: reality and methods of growth, job and employment, and human rights.

- For more information about the Center, click here.

Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority

The authority is directly related to the king. It has legal personality and financial and administrative independence that guarantees carrying out its work with impartiality and without influence from any party. It aims to protect the 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 Country 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.

- For more information on the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, click here.
- To submit a report to the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, Click here.

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. Moreover, A committee has been established to deal with family protection within the council's committees, and among its 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 opinions to the concerned authorities on the national reports prepared on the family (childhood, women, and the elderly) in Saudi Arabia 

- For more information about the Council, click here.

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 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 Saudi Arabia . 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 childcare.

- To view more on the Family Safety Program, click here.

Important links