Saudi Shura Council approves draft anti-harassment bill
Draft legislation was passed less than a month before Saudi lifts the ban on women driving.
Saudi Arabia's Shura Council, the Kingdom's legislative advisory body, has passed a draft anti-harassment law, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 Saudi Riyals.
Under the chairmanship of Speaker Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh, the 150-seat Shura Council approved the bill on Monday with a majority of 84 votes. The legislation was prepared by the Ministry of Interior on the orders of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
The draft legislation was passed by the Shura Council less than a month before the Kingdom lifts the ban on women driving. This follows King Salman's historic decision in September 2017 to allow women to drive from June 24. The decision is in line with the Vision 2030 blueprint for the future, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The legislation consists of eight articles and "aims at combating the crime of harassment, preventing it, applying punishment against perpetrators and protecting the victims in order to safeguard the individual's privacy, dignity and personal freedom which are guaranteed by Islamic law and regulations," according to a Shura Council statement.
King Salman ordered the Ministry of Interior to prepare the anti-harassment bill in light of the negative impact of harassment on the individual, family and society. Harassment also violates Islamic values. In order to combat the social phenomenon of harassment, it was deemed necessary to enact a law that criminalizes such behavior and spells out its legal consequences.
Shura Council member, Dr. Latifa Al Shaalan, said that the anti-harassment draft-bill "is a very important addition to the history of regulations in the Kingdom. It fills a large legislative vacuum, and it is a deterrent system when compared with a number of similar laws in other countries."
A clear definition of what constitutes harassment will help the Public Prosecutor investigate complaints and present suitable punishment for those convicted. In addition to mandating a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to SAR300,000, the bill also doubles the potential penalties for several other factors, including:
· Multiple occurrences of the harassment;
· Occurrence of the crime in the workplace, place of study or care home or shelter;
· The perpetrator occupying a position of authority vis-a-vis the victim;
· The victim being unconscious;
· The offence being committed at a time of crisis, accident or disaster;?
· If the crime was against a child or person with special needs.
Calling the new law a 'qualitative leap' in the fight against sexual harassment, leading lawyer Dimah Alsharif told Arab News that the end of the driving ban focused attention on the issue of potential harassment. The new law will help by "imposing clear and specific clauses directly related to driving and to ensuring people's freedom to practice this right."
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