A new draft legislation outlawing harassment was approved on Monday by the Saudi Shoura Council.
Anyone convicted under the new law faces up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to SR300,000 (around $80,000).
The new draft law “aims to combat the crime of harassment, prevent its occurrence, punish the perpetrators and protect the victims, in order to preserve the privacy, dignity and personal freedom of individuals guaranteed by the provisions of Islamic law and regulations.”
“I believe this law to be of extreme importance,” Shoura member Hoda Al-Helaissi told Arab News.
While the law protects people of both sexes, it has particular relevance to the end next month of the de facto ban on female drivers, Al-Helaissi said.
“The timing is important. Driving, although probably the main reason for it, is not the only one.
“Any comprehensive society needs a law such as this one to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of gender.”
There would be amendments to the law in the near future “to make it more complete and up to the standards required by our society,” she said.
Latifah Al-Shaalan, another Shoura member, said on social media: “The anti-harassment law approved today is a very important addition to the history of the Kingdom’s law and regulation, which fills a large legislative vacuum. It is a deterrent law compared to a number of other laws in other countries.”
Al-Shaalan said she had proposed a number of additional articles for the law regarding the protection of witnesses and of the identity of those who report such incidents, the provision of social and psychological support to the victims of harassment, and raising awareness of the provisions of the law. Anyone who witnessed an instance of harassment should be required by law to report it, she said.
Leading lawyer Dimah Alsharif told Arab News the new law was “a qualitative leap” in combating sexual harassment in the Kingdom. “Not only for women, but for all genders of different ages and in different situations,” she said.
The end of the driving ban gave attention to the issue of potential harassment “a boost,” she said, and the new law would help by “imposing clear and specific clauses to match the driving aspects and to assure people’s freedom in practicing this right.”
Rawan Al-Jabri, 26, a Saudi national, said: “This is not a privilege as much as a basic right for all women. Taking disciplinary measures against those who harass women, and even men, will definitely lower the harassment rate and hopefully put an end to it all together.”
Speaking as a woman who had faced harassment, Al-Jabri said she was thrilled by the new law. “With women starting to drive, this law is extremely necessary.”
In September 2017, a royal decree announced the end of the decades-long ban on women driving, which will be effective from June 24.
This article has been adapted from its original source.