Saudi Shoura Propose Law On Abuse
After years of the local media reporting on cases of domestic abuse, which sometimes caused deaths, the Shoura Council has taken a step forward by completing a draft protection law, which will be submitted to King Abdullah.
Human rights advocates have been calling for anti-harassment and domestic abuse laws for years.
The Shoura Council in the beginning of this week voted on the draft law in preparation to submit it to King Abdullah.
The proposed law includes 17 articles for protection against abuse in its different forms and legal action against those proven guilty, in addition to calling for awareness in the society on the concept of abuse and its implications. The law, however, does not cover harassment in public places.
The Shoura Council’s move was long-awaited by human rights advocates and family protection groups that have been calling for justice to those who suffer domestic abuse or harassment at workplaces.
The draft law includes imprisonment and fine to those proven guilty of abuse. It suggests imprisonment of not less than one month and not more than one year and a fine of not less than SR5,000 and not more than SR50,000, according to local media reports.
Mikhlif Al-Shamari, a human rights activist, said that human rights organizations have been calling for such laws for over 20 years.
“Human rights organizations have been demanding more laws and the protection law is just a small step that should have been implemented years ago,” said Al-Shamari.
The law, if passed, will be under the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Al-Shamari, however, is worried about the several bureaucracies that the law has to pass through before it is fully adopted and implemented. He says women deserve the right to live and work in a safe environment.
“In order for women to take part in building the nation, we should provide a healthy atmosphere for women instead of living in fear and anxiety of the possibility of being harassed by men,” Al-Shamari said.
Despite human rights groups urging people to report abuse to police or social affairs offices, some women still fear reporting on such cases due to the sensitivity or fear of losing their jobs.
Hana Karim, a 30-year-old employee who works at a private company in Jeddah, said her boss has been making sexual remarks for months now, but she hasn’t reported to anyone for the fear of losing her job. She is optimistic however that the new protection law, when implemented, will force men to respect their female counterparts.
“Maybe when the law is fully implemented I will report my boss to the authorities, but for now I prefer to keep my job. If he keeps on harassing me, I will probably look for another job,” Karim said.
Last month, a 10-year-old girl named Razan died after being physically abused by her stepmother in Makkah. Although teachers in her school had discovered bruises all over her body and had asked her father for an explanation, it was too late to save her from her stepmother.
So far the case is still in court but similar cases of domestic abuse in the past have ended with a death penalty for those convicted with the crime.
While the draft law is waiting to see the light, the sad reality is that children and women in the Kingdom continue to be abused and harassed.