By Sara Anabtawi
Penalties for men would range from hefty fines to lengthy prison terms
Saudi Arabia’s consultative Shura Council has finalised a draft law that would introduce a range of punishments for sexual harassment crimes in the kingdom, it was reported.
If passed, the new legislation would impose a variety of punishments on those found guilty of harassment crimes, including fines of up to SAR50,000 (US$13,000), flogging and custodial sentences, Arabic paper Al-Eqtisadiya reported.
In order for the draft law to become legislation, it must first be approved by the 150-member Shura Council within 30 days, before being passed on to ruler King Abdullah, who has the ultimate say on all legislation in the country.
Al-Eqtisadiya quoted Dr Sadaka Fadil, political science professor and member of the Shura Council, who argued that the bill was necessary due to the growing number of women entering the conservative Gulf state’s workforce.
The law would also apply to mixed gender environments where men and women intermingle, such as shopping malls, he pointed out.
“This is a common problem that can be found in all societies but in varying degrees. It increases in mixed places such as malls and workplaces and it results in many social and psychological problems for victims,” Dr Fadil said.
The draft legislation applies to both males and females, he continued.
“Most of the time, victims are women and girls. But in some cases women also engage in sexual harassment and that has also been taken that into account,” Dr Fadil added.
Saudi Arabia, the most conservative society in the Middle East, has recently taken modest strides to improve equality between men and women, who for the most part are still strictly segregated.
In September 2011, King Abdullah announced that from 2015, women would be able to vote and stand in municipal elections, as well as be appointed to the legislative Shura Council.
Officials in the kingdom have also recently indicated that they would be willing to allow female Saudi athletes to compete in the upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games.
In a dark room any ray of light is welcome.
I also hope that these laws will not only be passed but also implemented in letter & spirit.
I hope also the Saudi women will also get the right to DRIVE soon.