The 236-page document sent to reporters Thursday night outlining the government’s new ‘Quality of Life’ programme called for lobbying to amend the laws, saying the areas “require immediate regulatory changes.”
Even a recommendation would represent a notable shift in the official rhetoric on two sticky religious issues that could spark a backlash from conservative Saudis. The items were buried on page 156 of the document and were not mentioned during a news conference to announce the programme Thursday. They were removed from versions posted online later. Government officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Easing social restrictions is a key part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s push to overhaul the oil-dependent economy and attract foreign investment. The prince’s so-called Vision 2030 seeks to encourage more women to join the workforce and has identified entertainment as one industry with strong growth prospects.
The government has already lifted its longstanding ban on cinemas and women driving and sponsored gender-mixed music concerts. The changes have so far provoked minimal public dissent as the government clamps down on criticism.
The document sent to reporters called for allowing the “intermingling of both genders to enhance social cohesion” and legalising the opening of stores during prayer times, as well as the participation of women in sports in public places. It said that passing new regulations in these areas would improve citizen participation in lifestyle activities and boost investor confidence.