Saudi Arabia

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CountrySaudi Arabia
Optional protocolon the involvement of children in armed conflict, on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
Corporal punishmentCorporal Punishment is legal in the home, alternative care settings, day care, schools, penal institutions and as a sentence for crime.
Overview of the child rights situation

The report from Saudi Arabia shows that girls in particular are not allowed to express their free will and are massively repressed. It is also problematic that children under the age of 18 are punished with death penalty for blasphemy and that violence is not uncommon in penal institutions. For juvenile justice, as well as other areas, no international standards are observed.

Female genital mutilation and reproductive rights

The Committee is concerned that judges frequently authorize the marriage of girls who have attained puberty. Therefore, the Committee urges the State party to set, as a matter of priority, the minimum age of marriage at 18 years for both girls and boys. Also, in view of the fact that judges often consider underage marriage as being in the best interests of the girl child, a situation that reveals a misunderstanding of the concept of “best interests” and leads to multiple violations of girls’ rights, the State party is encouraged to develop procedures and criteria to provide guidance to all relevant persons in authority for determining the best interests of the child in every area and for giving them due weight as a primary consideration in order to avoid misconceptions of this right.

Racism, children belonging to a minority and indigenous childrenChildren belonging to religious and atheistic minorities, especially children belonging to the Shia community, continue to be discriminated against in various areas, notably with respect to access to school and justice and in the case of compensation for death or injury.
Situation of children with disabilities

Given the fact that the vast majority of children with disabilities continue to receive education in segregated institutions and be deprived of education after middle school, the Committee recommends that the State party adopt and promote a social and human rights-based approach to disability. Such an approach acknowledges that the disabling factors reside in the environmental and attitudinal barriers created by society and that all children with disabilities are subjects of rights and can become active participants in and contributors to society. The State party should set up a comprehensive policy to develop inclusive education and ensure that inclusive education is given priority over the placement of children in specialized institutions, while paying particular attention to children with mental and multiple disabilities.

Situation of asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant childrenWhile commending the State party for extending visas to Syrian refugees and issuing a Royal Decree regularizing the legal status of many Yemenis, including Yemeni children residing irregularly in the State party, the Committee recommends that the State party reinforce its cooperation with UNHCR with a view to undertaking a census of asylum-seeking and refugee children living on the territory of the State party and to responding to their specific protection needs. The State party should adopt the legal framework and all the measures necessary to effectively guarantee asylum-seeking and refugee children their rights under the Convention.
Free kindergartenNo
Free primary and secondary schoolYes
Digital possibilitiesThe Committee recommends that the combined third and fourth periodic reports, the written replies to the list of issues and the present concluding observations are made widely available in the languages of the country, including through the Internet.
physical health

Taking into consideration that the State party has still not recognized rape and incest as valid grounds for abortion, the Committee recommends that the State party decriminalize abortion in all circumstances and ensure access to safe abortion and post-abortion care services for adolescents. The Committee further recommends that Saudi Arabia adopt a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health policy for adolescents. It also recommends that the State party ensure that sexual and reproductive health education is part of the mandatory school curriculum and targets adolescent girls and boys, with special attention paid to preventing early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and fostering responsible sexual behaviour, particularly among boys.

Relation to other countries
Business sector

The Committee urges the State party to ensure the effective implementation of the law prohibiting the recruitment of children as domestic workers. The Committee also urges the State party to take measures to ensure that those who exploit children as domestic workers are held accountable.

Situation of juvenile justice

The Committee expresses its deepest concern that the State party tries children above 15 years of age as adults and continues to sentence to death and to execute persons for offences that they allegedly committed when they were under the age of 18, after trials falling short in terms of the guarantees of due process and a fair trial contained in article 40 of the Convention, especially as concerns the absolute prohibition of torture.
The Committee urges the State party to immediately halt the execution of people who were below the age of 18 at the time of the alleged commission of the offence. The Committee also urges the State party to ensure that children who have not benefited from a fair trial be immediately released and that those among them who were sentenced to death have their sentence commuted in line with international juvenile justice standards.

Specific observations

The Committee expresses deep concern that the State party still does not recognize girls as full subjects of rights and continues to severely discriminate against them in law and in practice and to impose on them a system of male guardianship that conditions their enjoyment of most of the rights enshrined in the Convention, upon the agreement of a male guardian. The Committee is also concerned about the discriminatory application of the concept of “decency” to boys and girls.
The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its obligation to ensure that traditional, historical, religious or cultural attitudes are not used to justify violations of girls’ rights to equality before the law and to equal enjoyment of all the rights enshrined in the Convention. It urges the State party to review as a matter of priority its legislation and practices in order to ensure full respect for the equality of girls and boys and, to this aim, to put an end to the system of male guardianship and to stop imposing a dress code on girls. The State party should prioritize the adoption of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls and to address the persistent negative gender stereotypes that lead to discrimination and violence against them.

The Committee urges the State party to ensure respect for children’s right to freedom of opinion and expression as guaranteed by the Convention and, to reach this aim, to repeal laws and regulations that broadly restrict that right, including the vaguely defined offences of “apostasy”, “insulting God or the Prophet” or “corrupting the Earth”, for which children can be condemned to severe sentences, including death penalty.

Additional BackgroundConcluding observations on the third and fourth periodic reports released on 25 October 2016. The Committee remains concerned about the State party’s general reservation to the Convention, which provides for the precedence of sharia law over international treaties and undermines the effective implementation of the Convention. More information about education in Saudi Arabia: a.
Last Updated (date)16th of February, 2022