Saudi society welcomes new law criminalizing sexual harassment

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Saudi women take part in the 87th National Day celebrations in Riyadh. (Reuters)
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King Salman has given the interior minister 60 days to draft the law. (Shutterstock)
Updated 30 September 2017
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Saudi society welcomes new law criminalizing sexual harassment

JEDDAH: A new anti-harassment law has won praise from across Saudi Arabia after King Salman ordered the interior minister to criminalize sexual harassment.
The government has prepared a draft anti-harassment law to be implemented in 60 days, with jail terms and flogging being considered as possible penalties.
The move comes just days after a royal decree lifted the driving ban on women.
The latest royal decree stated that sexual harassment posed a great threat to women and families, and was “in contradiction of Islamic principles.”
The decree read: “Considering the dangers sexual harassment poses and its negative impact on the individual, the family and society along with its contradiction of Islamic principles, our customs and traditions … the ministry shall prepare a draft law to tackle sexual harassment.”
The move drew a very favorable reaction from Saudi society.
“The order of King Salman is good and laudable. It will definitely give protection to women ... from harassment by men,” said Khalil Al-Jehani, a practicing lawyer in the Saudi capital.
He added that the order is a further show of support for women after the decree lifting the ban on women driving.
In a 2014 study, nearly 80 percent of women aged 18 to 48 said they had been exposed to some form of sexual harassment.
Faisal M. Al-Mashouh, a lawyer and legal adviser, said the law would “be a road map to control existing relations in society and protect the rights of women.”
He said the law is “a qualitative leap for the rights of women in Saudi Arabia,” adding that in the past, they took a backseat in decision-making and were passive participants in nation-building. This is no longer the case, he said.
Women “have become members of the Shoura Council so their voice on vital issues is heard. They’ve also become heads of leading local corporations,” he said.
The new law will give women more self-confidence and courage to pursue their goals and be active participants in nation-building, as envisioned in Vision 2030, he added.
Many women took to Twitter to express their support for the new law, overjoyed at the prospect of more freedom and safety.
Farah Al-Jabr tweeted that she finally felt like a “human being.”
Maha Al-Fahad was overwhelmed at the events of the past few days, tweeting: “OK … If this is a dream, don’t wake me up.”
Others took the opportunity to ask for the reopening of cinemas as the next step.
Mueerah Al-Ibrahim said this week “was the most beautiful, historic week ever,” with @stgirlever tweeting: “Women driving: done. Anti-Harassment law: done. Cinema: soon. Please welcome the new Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
 


PM Khan bats his way back into the hearts of diaspora

Updated 40 min 58 sec ago
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PM Khan bats his way back into the hearts of diaspora

  • Expatriates in Saudi say proud to welcome favorite cricketer back as PM
  • First foreign visit illustrates depth of relations with Kingdom, envoy says

RIYADH: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to choose the Kingdom for his first foreign trip was hailed by various sections of the Saudi and Pakistani communities on Tuesday, with a majority saying that the move speaks volumes about the camaraderie enjoyed by the two states.
Khan assumed office on August 18 and talks of his impending visit to Saudi had been doing the rounds ever since. He arrived in the Kingdom on Tuesday on the invitation of King Salman for a two-day visit, following which he will head to the UAE.
Speaking on behalf of the community and welcoming the premier to the Kingdom, Pakistani Ambassador in Riyadh, Khan Hasham Bin Saddique, told Arab News that PM Khan’s acceptance of the invitation “speaks volumes not only about the bilateral relations but also about the great importance he attaches to it”.
“The entire Pakistani community is eagerly looking forward to the visit, which I am sure will usher in a new era of cultural and economic ties,” he said.
Terming the Pakistan-Saudi bond as historic and time-tested, Saddique added that the two countries “have always stood by each other in the time of need.” “The people of Pakistan hold Saudi Arabia and its visionary leaders, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the highest esteem,” he said.
Detailing the schedule for the two-day visit, Saddique said the two sides are set to discuss several bilateral, regional and international issues, specifically matters related to the welfare of the Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia and ways to enhance cultural ties.
Speaking to Arab News about the timing and significance of the visit, Mohammed Al-Khunaizi, a senior member of the Shoura Council said: “The visit assumes greater significance as the two countries share a historical friendship…which progressed into deeper relations as a result of visits by top officials from both sides.”
He added that the Kingdom was a host to more two million Pakistanis and the only way to value those relations and take them forward was by “working together in areas of defense, oil cooperation and economy” to further enhance trade and investment ties.
“The Pakistani government is also fighting terrorism like us…the two countries can cooperate with each to fight it,” he said, adding that Riyadh is also helping Islamabad improve and stabilize its relations with neighboring Afghanistan.
Acknowledging the political impact of PM Khan’s visit, Dr. Majed Abdullah Al Hedayan, a FDI expert, analyst and former head of legal affairs, at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News that the move reinstates the fact that “the two countries are united on issues of political and strategic importance in the Middle East” – something which acts as evidence of the growing cooperation between the Islamic countries in dealing with issues of mutual concern.
Expressing hope that as a representative of the Pakistani community in Saudi PM Khan would take measures for them, Ghaffar Ahmed Khan, a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and a short-filmmaker in Riyadh told Arab News: “We want him to take measures for Pakistani expats living in Saudi Arabia and are extremely hopeful that the agenda of his meetings will include the welfare of the Pakistani workers. We want him to boost bilateral ties, especially in the art and entertainment sector.”
The Kingdom lifted a decades-long ban by opening its first cinema on April 18, a move which Khan says could work in favor of Pakistan’s entertainment industry as more films can now be screened in the country.
Zakariya Ahmed, an overseas Pakistani residing in the capital, says he’s admired PM Khan since his cricketing days and that his visit was a proud moment for the diaspora because “he was no longer visiting the country as a celebrity but as the prime minister of Pakistan”.
Following a congratulatory call from King Salman on his election win, PM Khan – in a statement released by the PTI --  had said at the time that “Pakistan considers Saudi Arabia’s security to be of crucial importance and safety of the holy sites in the Kingdom was part of their faith”.
Saudi’s relations with Pakistan date back to 1947 when the country was first formed. A friendship treaty was signed by the two in 1951, laying the basis for cooperation. Bilateral relations improved over the years due to strong financial and strategic assistance which both Riyadh and Islamabad extended to each other in times of need. Saudi Arabia continues to be home to the largest number of Pakistani expatriates and has provided employment opportunities to both high-skilled urban professionals and unskilled laborers from the remotest parts of Pakistan.
A number of monuments in Pakistan bear testimony to the allegiance that the country has for the Kingdom. Prime among them is The International Islamic University in Islamabad which was established with a grant of $10 million from Saudi Arabia and is a world-renowned varsity. Additionally, the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, a key landmark building in the capital, is named after King Faisal, while the third largest city in Pakistan was renamed Faisalabad as a tribute to the ruler.