It was just a few weeks ago that a Saudi royal called for an end to the ban on women driving.
And now more of the country’s officials have called for changes to the strict laws surrounding women in the conservative kingdom.
Females should be allowed to work as paramedics and opticians, a senior cleric and a health ministry official told local newspapers this week.
“It’s fine [for a woman] to work as a paramedic, provided she’s decent and in the lawful attire,” cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Manea told the Okaz daily.
Currently, Saudi Arabia enforces strict labour codes which bar women from working in certain professions, while bans on driving and rules on mixing with the opposite gender make it difficult for women to slot into the workforce.
However the government are making strides to change that, revealing in June plans to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.
Under the same economic reform, the government also aims to raise the number of women in senior civil service roles to 5 per cent.
Women can currently work as doctors, so long as they dress modestly, and senior health official Mohammad Bajbair this week said they should be allowed to work in opticians’ shops – if they do not mix with the opposite sex.
“If a complaint is received by the health affairs department about the mixed environment then the shop might be closed down,” Bajbair told the Saudi Gazette.
While no firm plans have been revealed for encouraging more women into work, Reuters reports the government will spend Dhs2.78 billion on improving public transport options for females.
As part of the country’s Vision 2030 – the kingdom’s post-oil economy plans – Saudi and its monarchy are also said to be changing restrictions on social policies.
A ban on women voting or taking part in elections was lifted in 2015, and in April this year the strict religious police were stripped of their power to stop, question, pursue or arrest people.
The hope is to make the region a more modern, tourist-friendly destination, with an aim to attract 1.5 million tourists by 2020, and to boost the kingdom’s hospitality industry by more than half.