SAUDI ARABIA (West Asia)
Population: 26.53 million
60% of the population are under 30 years of age
About 31% of the population is made up of foreign nationals.
Fertility Rate: 7.3 children/woman (1970s) vs. 2.8 children/woman (2010)
Life Expectancy: 52 years (1970s) vs. 74 years (2010)
Infant mortality: 15.61 deaths / 1000 live births
Male/Female Ratio: 1.21 male / female
Major Religion: Islam
– The Saudi guardianship system continues to treat women as minors. All women, regardless of age, are required to have a male guardian, typically a father or husband. Under this discriminatory system, girls and women of all ages are forbidden from traveling, studying, or working without permission from their male guardians.
– Women cannot vote or be elected to high political positions. However, King Abdullah has declared that women, for the first time in its nation’s history, will be able to vote and run in the 2015 local elections.
– Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are banned from driving. The country’s highest religious council has warned that allowing Saudi women to drive would lead to a scarcity of virgins and cause more Saudis – both men and women – turn to homosexuality and pornography.
– Saudi Arabia has one of the highest divorce rates in the world. In 2010, the country has an average of 1 divorce every 30 minutes. Most divorces took place within the first year of marriage.
– Around 83,000 homeless children are roaming the streets of Saudi Arabia. Most of them can be seen begging near traffic lights.
– The country has the highest road accident death toll in the world. This is the principal cause of death in adult males aged 16 to 36. An average of 17 residents die on the country’s roads each day. Reckless driving is the cause of about 60 percent of accidents in the country while speeding through a red light causes 34 percent of accidents.
– Some 1.5 million migrant domestic workers remain excluded from the 2005 Labor Law. As in years past, Asian embassies reported thousands of complaints from domestic workers forced to work 15 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and denied their salaries. Domestic workers, most of whom are women, frequently endure forced confinement, food deprivation, and severe psychological, physical, and sexual abuse.
– The kafala (sponsorship) system ties migrant workers’ residency permits to their “sponsoring” employers, whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or exit the country. Employers abuse this power to confiscate passports, withhold wages, and force migrants to work against their will.
– Over 8 million migrant workers fill manual, clerical, and service jobs, constituting more than half the national workforce. Many suffer multiple abuses and labor exploitation, sometimes amounting to slavery-like conditions.
– 45 % of children in Saudi Arabia are facing some sort of abuse and domestic violence.
– Saudi Arabia is one of the leading countries that continue to use capital punishment in its criminal justice system. The death penalty is typically handed down for violent crimes, including murder, rape and armed robbery, but also for drug trafficking, adultery, sodomy, apostasy (renunciation of Islam) and “sorcery”. Beheading is the preferred method of execution. Other methods include death by firing squad and public stoning in cases of adultery.