Nov 6 (Reuters) - Here is a look at reform in Saudi Arabia
launched by King Abdullah when he was crown prince in the late
1990s to help modernise the kingdom and create more jobs.
* JUDICIARY - King Abdullah removed the head of the supreme
court, a hardline Islamic cleric, in 2009 as part of his efforts
to modernise the court system. He has set up specialised family,
commercial and criminal courts but diplomats have said the pace
of judiciary reform remains slow. In Saudi Arabia there is still
no consistent application of law, with courts in different
provinces handing out different verdicts for the same crime.
* ECONOMY - Last July, Saudi Arabia passed a long-awaited
law covering housing mortgages, largely completing a sweeping
revision of economic policy. But making sure those reforms boost
private sector growth and cut unemployment will remain a
struggle. Still under discussion is a move to open the stock
market to direct investment by foreign institutions.
* VOTING - In September 2011, King Abdullah announced that
women would be able to vote and run for office in municipal
elections in 2015, the only public vote in the country. Women
would also be appointed to the Shoura Council, which advises the
government on policy, from 2014. The government excluded women
as voters or candidates in the 2011 municipal elections.
* EDUCATION - New schools have opened for gifted girls and
there is a greater emphasis on attending university. In 1965,
the country's female literacy rate was 5 percent. The figure now
is 70 percent. Sixty percent of the college students in Saudi
Arabia are women and their employment rate has nearly tripled
from 5.4 percent. But there is still a lag between the education
rate of Saudi women and their employment rate as only 15 percent
of Saudi females are employed (2009). Women constitute many of
the students sent overseas on a massive scholarship programme.
SOCIETY - In February 2009, King Abdullah removed two
radical clerics from senior positions and appointed the first
female as a deputy in the education ministry. He launched a
national dialogue under his auspices to brainstorm challenges
facing the kingdom. But diplomats say this has done little for
the Shi'ite Muslim minority, who still complain of
discrimination in state jobs and limited religious freedoms.
Sources: Reuters/Amnesty International/HRW/http://www.cdhr.info/State
(Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;
Editing by Mark Heinrich)