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Saudis criticise 'public decency' law for banning shorts in public

Breaking the state-imposed dress code can lead to fines of 5,000 Saudi riyals ($1,334) [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 May, 2019

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Saudis have rallied online to criticise a new law that outlaws people from wearing clothes deemed to 'offend public tastes', including shorts.

Saudis have rallied online to criticise a new law that outlaws people from wearing clothes deemed to "offend public tastes", including shorts.

Twitter users expressed their anger using an Arabic-language Hashtag #ShortsDon'tOffendPublicMorals that quickly topped the platform's trending topics.

Authorities say the code, which came into effect on Saturday, is aimed to ensure that people adhere to the kingdom's strict societal restrictions in public.

Breaking the state-imposed dress code can lead to fines of 5,000 Saudi riyals ($1,334).

The head of the government's newly-formed "Public Decency Agency" told BBC Arabic that shorts are only banned in public spaces and are allowed on beaches and in sports clubs.

"The new law is derived from religious values ​​and does not affect the freedoms of others. It will spread ideal values ​​and combat negative practices" Khalid Sufian said.

Saudi men have long been expected to not wear shorts and expose their arms in public but the new law has criminalised it.

On Saturday, Saudi social media users shared a video of what they said was a police raid on a shopping mall to arrest men wearing shorts.

Police have denied that they were targeting men in shorts.

Critics of the new law say that it does not explain what kind of clothes may be seen as offensive and that it could be used to target people under obscure legal conditions.

The code also bans clothing bearing "offensive signs or expressions" and "graffiti that could be interpreted as intimidating and harmful".

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