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Sexual harassment soon to be criminalized in Saudi Arabia

Written by FDM

Saudi Arabia has approved a measure criminalizing sexual harassment, the state news agency SPA reported on Wednesday, weeks before the ban on women driving is set to expire.

The Shura Council, an advisory body that advises the government, approved on Monday a draft law introducing a jail sentence, up to five years in prison and a fine of 300,000 riyals (MAD 761,507) for harassers. The bill has been endorsed by the government, said SPA on Wednesday.

“This is a very important addition to the history of the regulations in the kingdom,” said Latifa al-Shaalan, member of the Shura Council, in a statement relayed Tuesday evening by the Ministry of Information. “This fills a huge legislative gap and is a deterrent,” she added.

The law, which has eight articles, aims to “fight against harassment, prevent it, punish the perpetrators and protect the victims in order to safeguard the privacy, dignity and personal freedom guaranteed by Islamic law” , stresses the declaration of the Shura Council.

The historic lifting of the driving ban for women is scheduled for June 24 as part of a highly publicized liberalization campaign, spearheaded by the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who defines himself as a reformer. The prince also lifted the ban on movie theaters, allowed mixed concerts and reduced the powers of religious police, long feared in Saudi Arabia.

But these reforms have been overshadowed by a wave of arrests of human rights activists, including feminists, since last week.