UK official: Saudi women's progress 'striking' and 'strong'

Dr. Nouf Alumair, Dr. Moudhi Al Jamea, Shaima Al Husseini and Hajar Alnaim during a pannel discussion at the British Embassy in Riyadh, March 4 2020. (AN photo by Lojien Ben Gassem)
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Updated 08 March 2020

UK official: Saudi women's progress 'striking' and 'strong'

  • Stephanie Al-Qaq, of Foreign and Commonwealth Office, praises greater female access to education and labor market
  • Remarks came at forum at British Embassy in Riyadh in which women shared stories of their experiences and careers

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform program has secured strong progress for the country in many areas, particularly women’s empowerment, Stephanie Al-Qaq, director of the Middle East and North Africa department at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said. “The pace of change under Vision 2030 is really striking, with particularly strong progress for women in terms of giving them greater access to the labor market and education,” Al-Qaq said on Wednesday at the British Embassy in Riyadh.
To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, the embassy and the British Council organized a special forum with leading women sharing their experiences about their careers, challenges they faced and the opportunities offered by Vision 2030.
Al-Qaq, the first female director of the Middle East and North Africa section at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has visited Riyadh twice in the past 12 months. “I passionately believe in empowering women,” she said.
“We have really amazing role models for all of us here. I want to support both women and men who are looking to the future female leaders in this country.”
The British diplomat urged women to “try to be themselves.”
“It’s so important that you show other women that you can be yourself and still be successful.”
In a panel discussion titled “Enabling Future Leaders,” Shaima Al-Husseini, managing director of the Saudi Sports for All Federation, said that successful individuals were “soldiers of change.”
“Sport is a new sector in Saudi Arabia, and giving everyone an opportunity, and changing their perspective about sports or physical activity is important,” she said.

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The royal decree turning the Saudi General Sports Authority into a ministry reflects sport’s growing importance.  “One of the most important initiatives was introducing sports in public female schools, allowing women to attend sports matches and allowing female gyms that did not exist in the past. Now, in three years, we have at least one woman on every board of the federations. I’m proud to say that 50 percent of my team is female.
Nouf Al-Numair, adviser to the deputy minister of planning and transformation at the Ministry of Health, said that she heard from Princess Haifa bint Mohammed that women made up 70 percent of Formula E management.
“(This) reflects how this sector is welcoming females and there is a clear path for them in the future.”
Moudhi Aljamea, general manager of digital technology at the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) academy, said that she realized how much impact she had made as STC’s first female general manager when several women came to her office to tell her how proud and happy they were that she had taken the position.
Film director and producer Hajjar Al-Naim, a member of the Saudi Film Council, said that she focuses on helping others and giving them the access they need.
“I love education and I want to share the opportunity that I have with other women in my industry,” she said.


Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

Updated 01 October 2020

Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

  • It will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools

JEDDAH: Violations of Saudi Arabia’s anti-sexual harassment laws could be punished by “naming and shaming” following a decision by the Kingdom’s Shoura Council to approve a defamation penalty.

The council voted in favor of the penalty during its session on Wednesday after previously rejecting the move in March this year.

Council member Latifah Al-Shaalan said the proposal to include the penalty was sent by the Saudi Cabinet.

Saudi lawyer Njood Al-Qassim said she agrees with the move, adding that it will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools.

“The penalty will be imposed according to a court ruling under the supervision of judges, and according to the gravity of the crime and its impact on society,” Al-Qassim told Arab News.

“This will be a deterrent against every harasser and molester,” she said.

Al-Qassim said that legal experts are required to explain the system and its penalties to the public.

“The Public Prosecution has clarified those that may be subject to punishment for harassment crimes, including the perpetrator, instigator and accessory to the crime, the one who agreed with the harasser, malicious report provider, and the person who filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit,” she added.

“The Public Prosecution also confirmed that attempted harassment requires half the penalty prescribed for the crime,” said Al-Qassim.

In May 2018, the Shoura Council and Cabinet approved a measure criminalizing sexual harassment under which offenders will be fined up to SR100,000 ($26,660) and jailed for a maximum of two years, depending on the severity of the crime. 

In the most severe cases, where the victims are children or disabled, for example, violators will face prison terms of up to five years and/or a maximum penalty of SR300,000.

Incidents that have been reported more than once will be subject to the maximum punishment. 

The law seeks to combat harassment crimes, particularly those targeting children under 18 and people with special needs.

Witnesses are also encouraged to report violations and their identities will remain confidential.

The law defines sexual harassment as words or actions that hint at sexuality toward one person from another, or that harms the body, honor or modesty of a person in any way. It takes into account harassment in public areas, workplaces, schools, care centers, orphanages, homes and on social media.

“The legislation 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,” a statement from the Shoura Council said.

Council member Eqbal Darandari, who supports the law, said on Twitter that the defamation penalty has proven its effectiveness in crimes in which a criminal exploits a person’s trust.

“The defamation of one person is a sufficient deterrent to the rest,” she said.

Social media activist Hanan Abdullah told Arab News the decision “is a great deterrent for every harasser since some fear for their personal and family’s reputation, and won’t be deterred except through fear of defamation.”

The move will protect women from “uneducated people who believe that whoever leaves her house deserves to be attacked and harassed,” she said.

“Anyone who is unhappy with this decision should look at their behavior.”