Saudi Shoura Council approves new law against harassment

Anyone convicted under the new law faces up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to SR300,000 (around $80,000). (AFP)
Updated 29 May 2018

Saudi Shoura Council approves new law against harassment

  • Any comprehensive society needs a law such as this one to protect the rights of all citizens
  • Anyone who witnessed an instance of harassment should be required by law to report it

JEDDAH: 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.

Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki at a press briefing. (SPA file photo)
Updated 19 March 2019

Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

  • Houthis want to disturb peace, says coalition spokesman
  • Stockholm peace agreement under strain

RIYADH: The Arab coalition supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government is committed to protecting regional and global security, a spokesman said Monday.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki was asked at a press briefing about Houthi militias threatening to target the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“This is their way to disturb peace,” Al-Maliki replied. “Previously the Houthis targeted Riyadh with a ballistic missile, violating all international laws by attacking a city that has more than 8 million civilians. We take all precautions to protect civilians and vital areas. The coalition works to protect regional and international security.”

Al-Maliki said Houthis had targeted Saudi border towns several times, the most recent incident taking place in Abha last Friday.

But the Saudi Royal Air Defense Force had shot down a drone that was targeting civilians, he added.

He said four Saudi nationals and an Indian expatriate were injured in the attack because of falling debris.

The drone wreckage showed the characteristics and specifications of Iranian manufacturing, he said, which proved Iran was continuing to smuggle arms to the militias.

He warned the Houthis to refrain from targeting civilians because the coalition, in line with international humanitarian law, had every right to counter such threats.

He said the coalition was making efforts to neutralize ballistic missiles and dismantle their capabilities, as the coalition’s joint command would not allow the militia to possess weapons that threatened civilian lives and peace.

Al-Maliki reiterated that the Houthis were targeting Yemeni civilians and continued to violate international laws. 

He also urged Yemenis to try their best to prevent children from being captured by Houthis, who were using them as human shields and child soldiers.

His comments came as the UN tried to salvage a peace deal that was seen as crucial for ending the country’s four-year war.

The Stockholm Agreement was signed by the Yemeni government and Houthi representatives last December.

The main points of the agreement were a prisoner exchange, steps toward a cease-fire in the city of Taiz, and a cease-fire agreement in the city of Hodeidah and its port, as well as ports in Salif and Ras Issa.

Militants triggered the conflict when they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and attempted to occupy large parts of the country. An Arab coalition intervened in support of the internationally recognized government in March 2015.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015.

Earlier this month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump’s administration opposed curbs on American assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

“The way to alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering isn’t to prolong the conflict by handicapping our partners in the fight, but by giving the Saudi-led coalition the support needed to defeat the Iranian-backed rebels and ensure a just peace,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Washington.