Saudi women need not wear Abayas, top cleric in Saudi says By


But women still face a number of restrictions.

Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, told Reuters on Friday that while Saudi women should dress modestly, that doesn't mean they should just wear the abaya.

Although Sheikh Al Mutlaq's statement does not necessarily signal a change in Saudi law, which requires women to wear an abaya in public, it was the first of its kind from a senior religious figure. Before that announcement, Saudi women were only allowed to wear swimsuits inside segregated gymnasiums and women-only swimming pools.

"The abaya is a matter of tradition in one of our regions and has become applicable to all. Girls, do not listen to the fatwas..." wrote twitter user @Kooshe90.

A woman wearing a traditional abaya in Saudi Arabia.

In recent years, some Saudi women have taken to wearing colorful abayas, as opposed to the more standard black, wearing them over jeans or wearing abayas that were a bit shorter than full-length.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recently introduced a series of reforms in favour of women as the kingdom prepares for a post-oil era.

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But despite these changes, the gender-segregated nation is criticized for its continued constraints on women. Last month, women in the kingdom were finally granted admittance to stadiums in some cities to watch live soccer games.

Last year, the prince also lifted a decades-old ban on movie theaters. The first cinemas are expected to open in March this year. As per law, the women in the country are required to wear the abaya as per law.

Up until now, such sports and entertainment venues have been men-only areas.

There are many things that Saudi women are unable to do without permission from the men in their lives.

"Breaking: Saudi Arabia still an autocratic repressive state that is now killing Yemenis and uses cosmetic changes to improve its image", tweeted Linah Alsaafin, producer for Al Jazeera English.

Under the system, every woman must have a male companion with her in public, usually a close family member, who has authority to act on her behalf in these circumstances.