56.With respect to training government officials to deal with trafficking in persons offences, the Human Rights Commission, in accordance with its functions and within the framework of the memorandum of understanding for technical cooperation concluded with OHCHR, referred to in paragraph 62 of the report, organizes training activities aimed primarily at government officials, judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, lawyers and representatives of civil society organizations. Such activities included the training course organized in March 2014 on successful experiences of States in the area of trafficking in persons. In 2012, as part of its human rights awareness-raising activities, the Commission held a seminar explaining the Trafficking in Persons Act and also organized other ongoing activities on the subject. The aim of these activities is to equip the participants for whom they are designed with the skills and knowledge needed to familiarize them with all the remedies, such as monitoring, documentation, protection, prosecution, assistance in all its forms, in particular legal assistance, including the appointment of lawyers, access to translators, rehabilitation, and reparation.
57.By law, victims of trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation must be protected and receive redress, medical, social and legal assistance, and any necessary compensation. They are not criminalized unless they perpetrate a criminal act under the Kingdom’s laws. Article 15 of the Trafficking in Persons Act provides that: “The following measures shall be taken at the investigation or trial stage with respect to victims of a trafficking in persons offence:
1.Informing victims of trafficking in persons of their statutory rights in a language that they understand;
2.Giving them the opportunity to declare their status, including as victims of trafficking in persons, and likewise their legal, physical, psychological and social status;
3.Sending them for examination by the competent physician if they are clearly in need of medical or psychological care or if they so request;
4.Placing them in a medical, psychological or social rehabilitation centre if clearly required by their medical or psychological condition or their age;
5.Having them admitted to a specialist centre if they are in need of shelter;
6.Providing protection, where necessary for safety;
7.In cases of foreign victims, the Public Prosecutor’s Office or the court shall assess whether it is necessary for them to remain in the Kingdom or work while investigation or trial procedures are ongoing.”
Reply to paragraph 15 of the list of issues and questions
58.In addition to what is mentioned in paragraphs 78 to 85 of the report, women continuously receive the necessary encouragement and support from institutions and the community concerning their participation in political and public life. One of the key focuses of Vision 2030 of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is on Saudi women as an important element of our strength. They account for over 50 per cent of the total number of university graduates and work is constantly under way to develop their talents, harness their energies and enable their access to appropriate opportunities for building their future and contributing to the development of our society and economy. One of the aims sought by A.H. 1452 (A.D. 2030) is to increase women’s participation in the labour market from 22 per cent to 30 per cent. Supreme Order No. 33322 of 21 Rajab A.H. 1438 (18 April A.D. 2017), referred to in several parts of the present note, also states that the Human Rights Commission is to receive support enabling it to develop the programmes needed to increase knowledge of the international conventions to which the Kingdom has acceded by producing a comprehensive plan for raising awareness of women’s rights. The draft national strategy for human rights, referred to in paragraph 34 of the present note, furthermore comprises a number of initiatives aimed at the advancement of women and removal of the obstacles they encounter.
59.Concerning quotas for increasing the representation of women in public and political life, 20 per cent of seats in the Shura Council are set aside as a minimum for women, as stated in paragraph 78 of the report. In the case of municipal councils, women who so wish have the open opportunity to stand for election pursuant to the Municipal Councils Act promulgated by Royal Decree No. M/61 of 4 Shawwal A.H. 1435 (31 July 2014), referred to in paragraph 50 of the report, which provides that they may stand as candidates and be elected on a basis of equality with men.
Reply to paragraph 16 of the list of issues and questions
60.The Saudi Arabian Nationality Act treats men and women equally with regard to the acquisition, change and retention of nationality. Article 12 of the Act guarantees that no Saudi woman loses her Saudi nationality as a consequence of her spouse’s loss of Saudi nationality in the event that he acquires a foreign nationality, unless she decides to take her spouse’s nationality and acquires it in accordance with the relevant law. Article 17 also guarantees that: “No Saudi Arabian woman shall lose her nationality if she marries a foreign national, unless she decides and announces that she is to take the nationality of her spouse and does so in accordance with the relevant law.” Article 18 provides that: “A Saudi Arabian woman married to a foreign national may have her Saudi Arabian nationality restored to her after the end of the marriage and her return to reside in the Kingdom.” The Act does not discriminate against either sex with respect to the acquisition of Saudi Arabian nationality by way of ordinary or special naturalization.
61.Concerning whether women are able to pass on their nationality to their foreign spouses and their mutual children, non-Saudi children of Saudi women who are born in the Kingdom may acquire Saudi Arabian nationality through special naturalization. Article 8 of the Saudi Arabian Nationality Act provides that: “Saudi Arabian nationality may be granted by a decision of the Minister of the Interior to all persons born in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to a foreign father and a Saudi mother, if the following conditions are fulfilled:
(a)They have permanent residence status in Saudi Arabia when they reach the age of majority;
(b)They are of good conduct and have not been convicted of a crime or sentenced to imprisonment for a period of more than six months for an offence of indecency;
(c)They are proficient in the Arabic language;
(d)They apply for Saudi Arabian nationality within one year of attaining the age of majority.”
62.With regard to ensuring the effective implementation of Cabinet Decision No. 406 of 27 Dhu al-Hijjah A.H. 1433 (12 November A.D. 2012) granting privileged services and facilities to the children of Saudi women, the concerned authorities oversee its implementation and monitor compliance. Under its Statute, the Human Rights Commission follows up the implementation of this decision and takes the necessary action as soon as any failure in implementation is identified. The Ministry of Labour and Social Development also monitors the private sector to ensure the implementation of this decision. It does so through its Inspection Department, which deals immediately with any identified failure and imposes the penalties prescribed by law on the employers responsible.
63.In respect of the Kingdom’s reservation to article 9, paragraph 2, of the Convention, periodic reviews of regional and international human rights instruments are undertaken and include the reservations expressed by the Kingdom to some of these instruments.
Reply to paragraph 17 of the list of issues and questions
64.Twenty-five years ago, the illiteracy rate in Saudi Arabia stood at almost 60 per cent, the greater part of which was accounted for by women. By the grace of God and thanks to the efforts to combat illiteracy, the rate had fallen to 5.31 per cent at the end of A.H. 1436 (A.D. 2015) and among women to 8.27 per cent. During the coming years, within the framework of its national vision and relevant strategies and guided by the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Kingdom will strive to reduce the rate to a minimum by continuing to roll out versatile programmes, such as the Society without Illiteracy and City without Illiteracy programmes, the Caravans of Light project, the Educated Neighbourhood programme and other programmes specifically aimed at women, in the various regions, governorates, main centres and small villages. To the same end, it will also strive to eliminate the dropout rate of girls from school and to provide financial and other incentives to the target groups. The Kingdom has been giving financial bonuses to male and female students alike for some time, in addition to which university education is free of charge.
65.Concerning extracurricular and sporting activities, the Minister of Education issued a decision on 17 Shawwal A.H. 1438 (11 July A.D. 2017) to begin implementing a physical education programme in girls’ schools as from the academic year A.H. 1438/39 (A.D. 2017/18). This decision implements one of the goals of Vision 2030 of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is to increase the percentage of those practising sport. The Saudi Community Sports Federation, chaired by the female deputy of the General Sports Authority, plays a substantial role in enabling members of the public, including women and girls, to engage in sports activities.
66.School curricula and textbooks used in all levels of general education are periodically reviewed to ensure that they fulfil their educational role to the fullest and that they contain nothing that could be considered as discrimination against women or as belittling them. A company specializing in the development of education services has been commissioned to review, develop and print teaching curricula as from 2017. The secondary level comprises a number of different systems, including the term system and the course system, which are accessible to all male and female students throughout the Kingdom. The areas of specialization at university are also available to female students on a basis of equality with male students.
67.Vocational programmes take into account the differences between the sexes and are based on the needs of the labour market. In addition to what is mentioned in paragraph 92 of the report, there are hundreds of colleges and institutes in the Kingdom that offer vocational training, with support from the Ministry of Labour and Social Development and the Human Resources Fund.
68.Non-Saudi girls receive a public education (primary, intermediate and secondary), free of charge, on a basis of equality with Saudi girls. In 2016, a total of 345,620 non-Saudi girls were enrolled in the various stages of public education, 16,663 were enrolled in private education, and 146,596 were enrolled in foreign education. Most of them receive grants to continue their education at university. In 2016, the number of females enrolled in Saudi public universities amounted to 24,409. In the case of private university education, there is no discrimination of any kind between Saudi and non-Saudi girls. In 2016, there were 10,245 non-Saudi females enrolled in private universities.
Reply to paragraph 18 of the list of issues and questions
69.Concerning the national plan launched by the Ministry of Labour and Social Development in order to expand employment opportunities for Saudi women, referred to in paragraph 103 of the report, it is being implemented through programmes aimed at promoting and increasing women’s participation in the labour market. Various indicators clearly show the positive results of the plan, including a rise in the percentage of women employed in the private sector (companies, institutions, hospitals and shops) and a growing awareness of women’s rights at work in general and within the family in particular. All Saudi women are included under this plan, without discrimination, and those benefiting from it most are women living in remote governorates and villages. There is no gender wage gap in equal work. Wages are furthermore determined on the basis of qualifications and experience, irrespective of gender.
70.Supreme Order No. 33322 of 21 Rajab A.H. 1438 (18 April A.D. 2017), referred to in paragraph 6 of this note, is among the legislative measures aimed at reducing the obstacles to women’s participation in the labour market on a basis of equality with men. It contains a number of directives to that end, which include impressing upon all those concerned that there is no requirement to obtain the permission of a woman’s guardian when providing services to her or concluding procedures for her. Employers are furthermore obliged to provide transport for female workers, as required under the Labour Code.
71.The Royal Order approving application of the Traffic Act and its implementing regulations, including the issuance of driving licences to males and females alike, was also promulgated, together with the Supreme Order requiring the Ministry of the Interior to draft the bill of law on harassment referred to in paragraph 6 of the present note.
72.Through its Inspection Department, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development ensures that firms employing 50 or more workers fulfil the requirement to provide crèches for the children of female workers. It is empowered to deal with breaches of the requirement immediately and to impose the sanctions prescribed in the Labour Code on the companies concerned.
73.Concerning loans granted to women entrepreneurs, social development loans for women’s projects amounted to 21 per cent of all loans, while bank loans in 2014 amounted to 15 per cent of all loans, up from 9.1 per cent of total loans in 2008. It should be noted that the Lending and Savings Bank has been renamed the Social Development Bank.
Reply to paragraph 19 of the list of issues and questions
74.The right to health is a right guaranteed under the Basic Law of Governance, with health care provided to men and women on a basis of equality. Article 31 of the Basic Law provides that: “The State shall be responsible for public health and provide health care for every citizen.” Under article 27 of the same Law, the State guarantees the right of citizens and their families in cases of emergency, sickness, incapacity and old age. As clearly detailed in the report, there is no disparity between the sexes in the delivery of health care and there are no laws or practices that allow otherwise. In addition to what is mentioned in the report, the Ministry of Health is currently working to transform hospitals and health centres into government companies in order to enhance efficiency, raise productivity, reduce waste, speed up decision-making and decentralize, thereby improving the quality of health services, This is part of the National Transformation Programme, which is one of the core programmes of Vision 2030 of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
75.With respect to reproductive health, the report includes information on the services provided, in particular concerning the rise in the proportion of pregnant women receiving care from health professionals from 88 per cent in 1990 to 98 per cent in 2014. A number of reproductive health programmes have been introduced, such as the healthy marriage programme and the advanced pregnancy programme. Abortion without a legitimate reason is prohibited by the Islamic sharia, as it involves the unlawful killing of a person and is a flagrant violation of the right to life. In cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the Islamic sharia permits abortion in order to save the mother’s life. The Kingdom reiterates its commitment to promoting the right to reproductive health in accordance with the Islamic sharia. Within the reporting period, there have been no cases of women being prosecuted for having undergone an abortion.
76.In respect of education on sexual health, the Ministry of Health and other concerned bodies deliver programmes aimed at promoting awareness among girls who are to be married. These programmes cover social, health, psychological and other topics. Through their courses and curricula, schools and universities also play their part in promoting awareness of rights and duties within marriage and in the family.
77.Concerning cancer prevention programmes, the Ministry of Health has introduced a breast cancer screening programme and a programme for preventing chronic disease and cancer and avoiding cancer-causing agents. A screening clinic has also been established to detect various diseases, among them breast cancer, including by mammogram.
78.Concerning female genital mutilation, please refer to paragraph 41 of the present note.
Reply to paragraph 20 of the list of issues and questions
79.With reference to paragraph 23 of the report, the sponsor is a concept that no longer exists in the Kingdom. The legal relationship between workers and employers is contractual. As part of its consideration of treaty body recommendations, the Kingdom is reviewing the current situation of migrant workers, including those employed in domestic service, in terms of the linkage of their services with employers. The abuses and violations to which the Committee refers in its observation are dealt with in accordance with the relevant laws indicated in the report and the present note. These include the Trafficking in Persons Act, which prescribes deterrent penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of SR 1 million, and the Regulations on Domestic Workers. Concerning the Committee’s request for clarification concerning the inclusion of female domestic workers within the ambit of the Labour Code, that objective was realized with the promulgation of the Regulation on Domestic Workers, which contain provisions guaranteeing the rights of this category of workers and protecting them from the abuses and violations mentioned by the Committee. This Regulation is consistent with the relevant international standards. Nonetheless, it is periodically reviewed by the relevant authorities, including the Ministry of Labour and Social Development and the Human Rights Commission, as are all laws and regulations relating to human rights.
80.With regard to proactive measures to intensify efforts to prevent the abuse of migrant workers, numerous preventive steps have been taken, such as the awareness-raising undertaken by the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, the Human Rights Commission, the National Society for Human Rights and other relevant civil society institutions. The Committee on Trafficking in Persons also works to identify and address the underlying causes of offences involving economic and sexual exploitation, while both the Inspection Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Development and the Human Rights Commission play a part in monitoring. In recognition of the fact that ill-treatment, exploitation, violence and other abuses directed at foreign female workers, in particular domestic workers, may go unaccounted for, various measures have been taken to curb such types of abuse. In particular, multilingual awareness campaigns in the media and on social networks have been intensified, booklets and leaflets have been published to inform female workers about the remedies available in the event that any of their rights are violated, including the reporting mechanism, access to legal and translation assistance, legal recourse and the like. Swift and effective action is also taken in response to any abuse circulating on social networking sites. Female domestic workers contracted by individuals receive free medical care in government hospitals and health centres and those contracted by companies are covered by the Health Insurance Act, which obliges employers to provide health insurance for their employees.
81.Measures taken by the concerned authorities to enforce the ban on the retention of workers’ passports pursuant to Cabinet Decision No. 166, referred to in paragraph 23 of the report, include monitoring, receiving complaints and carrying out inspections. The Ministry of Labour and Social Development imposes the statutory fine on those who violate the ban.
82.The information requested on the number of cases involving trafficking of female domestic workers and use of violence against them is covered by the statistics set out in paragraph 62.
83.Concerning the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), of the International Labour Organization, the international instruments to which the Kingdom has not acceded are periodically reviewed.
Reply to paragraph 21 of the list of issues and questions
84.The legal provisions in force in the Kingdom do not discriminate against women. Men and women are equal before the law. Testimony is generally governed, in accordance with the Islamic sharia, by a number of rules and conditions, be the witness a man or a woman. As in the case of other evidence, it is subject to judicial discretion.
85.With regard to the right of women to freedom of movement, their right to obtain a passport, travel outside the country and leave detention centres, prisons or shelters, and the ban on women from driving, please refer to paragraphs 20, 50, 58, 60 and 70 of the present note.
Reply to paragraph 22 of the list of issues and questions
86.In the Kingdom, personal status matters, including those referred to by the Committee in its observation (inheritance, polygamy, custody, marriage and divorce), are subject to the provisions of the Islamic sharia, which includes no discrimination that would have the effect of hampering or lessening the recognition of women’s human rights. As to male guardianship over women, it has nothing to do with marriage. The Islamic sharia instead imposes male guardianship over women in marriage on the basis of a number of considerations primarily aimed at protecting women. Concerning a daughter’s share of inheritance if she has one or more brothers, it is one half of her brother’s share.
87.With regard to the Committee’s request for clarification concerning the adoption of a unified personal status law, the draft compendium of judicial decisions referred to in paragraph 4 includes the Personal Status Code.
Reply to paragraph 23 of the list of issues and questions
88.Concerning accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, regional and international instruments to which the Kingdom had not acceded are always periodically examined to determine whether it is appropriate to accede to them.
89.The Kingdom hopes it has provided replies that will facilitate a constructive and interactive dialogue with the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The information to be provided by the delegation of the Kingdom during the dialogue with the Committee at its sixty-ninth session, to be held during the period 19 February–9 March 2018, will help the Committee to better understand the situation of human rights in the Kingdom, in particular the rights established under the Convention. It will cover aspects that have not been sufficiently addressed in the documents submitted by the Kingdom, including the present note. The Kingdom affirms that it is moving well ahead in the area of promoting and protecting human rights through the adoption of legislative and procedural measures to that end. It has also benefited on that score from the work of treaty bodies, among them the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.