WHO welcomes Saudi Arabia’s decision to limit Hajj 2020

WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanum, said the decision to limit hajj pilgrims is in accordance with the organization’s guidelines to reduce the risk of infection. (Screengrab)
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Updated 24 June 2020

WHO welcomes Saudi Arabia’s decision to limit Hajj 2020

  • WHO says decision based on risk assessment and analysis of various scenarios
  • Kingdom said it would limit number of pilgrims for different nationalities within the country

RIYADH: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to greatly limit the number of Hajj pilgrims this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kingdom said just 1,000 people, who are already living in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform the pilgrimage. Last year almost 2.5 million worshippers from around the world took part.
“As some countries start to reopen their societies and economies, the question about how to hold gatherings of large numbers of people safely have become increasingly important,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanum, said. “This is especially true of one of the world’s largest mass gatherings, the annual Hajj pilgrimage.” 

Adhanum said the decision comes on the basis of risk assessment and an analysis of the various scenarios, in accordance with the organization’s guidelines to protect the safety of pilgrims and reduce the risk of infection.
Speaking n Geneva during the daily coronavirus press conference, he said the organization supported Saudi Arabia’s decision, adding that all that all countries must make difficult decisions to put public health at the forefront.
“We understand that it was not an easy decision to make and we also understand it is a major disappointment for many Muslims who are looking forward to making their pilgrimage this year,” he said. “This is another example of the hard choices that all countries must make to put health first.”


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.”