Women in Saudi Arabia do not need to wear traditional black abayas or headscarves, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said as he tries to burnish his reformist credentials.
He disclosed this ahead of his first trip to Washington as Saudi heir to the throne.
The 32-year-old prince, who will meet Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday, said that Saudis had “come a very long way and have a short way to go” to roll back laws which have restricted Saudi women for decades.
“Saudi women still have not received their full rights. There are rights stipulated in Islam that they still don’t have,” he told CBS News.
“The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of sharia: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men.
“This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover.
“The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear,” the prince said.
Black abayas, a loose fitting robe, are not mandatory for women in Saudi Arabia but they are so widely worn that they are strongly associated with the conservative kingdom.
The prince’s comments will be taken as a sign of his ambitions to further ease Saudi Arabia’s social laws and customs.