In recent months, there have been calls to end the controversial driving ban on women, and to get more females into a wider range of professions in the conservative kingdom.
However not everyone is supportive of relaxing Saudi Arabia’s strict laws. Case in point? The nation’s religious chief has spoken out about a touted legalisation of cinemas and concerts.
As part of the country’s Vision 2030 – the kingdom’s post-oil economy plans – Saudi and its monarchy are said to be looking into introducing cultural and economic reforms.
But in a TV appearance earlier this week, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh warned about the “depravity” that concerts and cinemas could bring to the country.
Public cinemas have been illegal in the country since the 1980s, but Amr al-Madani, the head of the government’s General Authority for Entertainment, last week raised the possibility of opening some later this year.
“We know that singing concerts and cinemas are a depravity,” the Grand Mufti said in response, as reported by news site Sabq.
“Motion pictures may broadcast shameless, immoral, atheistic or rotten films.
“There is nothing good in song parties, for entertainment day and night and opening of movie houses at all times is an invitation to mixing of sexes.”
The country’s highest-ranking cleric said cinemas would “corrupt morals and destroy values”, elaborating that “at the beginning they would assign areas for women, but then both men and women will end up in one area”.
Vision 2030 was launched by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz last year, and seeks to develop tourism and entertainment as part of the nation’s post-oil plans.
Progress in that industry looked to be made when American comedian Mike Epps was booked to perform at a Saudi university, but the show was later cancelled.
However some changes have been made in the field of women’s rights, with a ban on women voting or taking part in elections lifted in 2015, and in 2016 the strict religious police were stripped of their power to stop, question, pursue or arrest people.
The government also have plans to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.