Aug. 5 (UPI) — A planned beach resort in Saudi Arabia is expected to lift restrictive laws regarding women’s dress by allowing them to wear bikinis.
Saudi Arabia’s government said the upcoming Red Sea beach resort will be “governed by laws on par with international standards,” including lifting certain laws in order to allow women to wear bikinis in pool and beach areas, USA Today reported.
The resort is part of the government’s Vision 2030, headed by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to modernize Saudi Arabia and move its economy away from a dependence on oil.
“It goes without question that Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 is to … improve the relatively negative image of the kingdom in the world with regard to treating women,” Massoud Maalouf, an advocate for women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa, said.
In addition to other laws that prohibit women from driving without the permission of a male relative, women in Saudi Arabia are expected to cover their whole body with a robe-like garment known as an “abaya.”
Law allows foreign women to wear western clothing within their compounds and in some areas where the laws are not as strictly enforced, foreign women can be seen in modest western dresses, but the policy surrounding bikinis at the resort would be new for the nation.
It is unclear whether the resort’s regulations or other changes implemented under Vision 2030 will apply to Saudi women, who are presently only allowed to wear swimsuits inside segregated gymnasiums, women-only swimming pools and certain closed compounds.
Restrictions on visitor visas will also be eased inside the tourist zone that will contain the resort and a new airport, CNN reported.
A statement by the Saudi government added the resort “will be an extremely safe and secure environment that will ensure the protection of all visitors in accordance with the highest international best practice.”
Construction on the resort, which will span across 50 islands, is set to begin in 2019 and expected to be completed by 2022.