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Saudi Arabia Officially Outlaws Sexual Harassment


Photographed by Vivenne Balla for Vogue Arabia, June 2017.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has passed a new law to criminalize sexual harassment, just days after draft legislation was given the green light by the Saudi Shura Council. The law was approved by the Council of Ministers, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, on Tuesday, the Saudi Gazette reports.

Under the bill passed by the Shura Council, those convicted of breaking the law face up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to AED/SAR 300,000. The aim of the legislation is to “preserve the privacy, dignity and personal freedom of individuals guaranteed by the provisions of Islamic law and regulation,” Arab News reports. The law has been designed to protect both men and women from harassment, though its timing ties in with the lifting of the driving ban on women from June 24.

“The timing is important. Driving, although probably the main reason for it, is not the only one,” Shura Council member Hoda Al-Helaissi told Arab News earlier this week. “Any comprehensive society needs a law such as this one to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of gender.”

The law is made up of eight articles to combat harassment, punish the perpetrators, and protect victims, according to a statement from the Saudi Press Agency. It has been created due to the “negative effects on the individual, the family and society” the crime can incur, the agency added, revealing that it is hoped the law will deter the occurrence of harassment.

This is just the latest of a raft of changes in the Kingdom, which is undergoing social and economic reform under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030. The blueprint will allow Saudi Arabia to diversify from a reliance on oil and move towards a more modernized, tourist-friendly future.

Under Vision 2030, the Kingdom aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 22% to 30%. King Salman also issued a decree allowing women to lawfully gain driving licenses from June 24 as part of the plan and, as of this year, females have also been allowed to attend sporting matches in select stadiums. In line with his plans to modernize the Gulf country and ease restrictions on women residing in the Kingdom, the Crown Prince also declared in an interview with 60 Minutes earlier this year that women in Saudi Arabia no longer need to wear an abaya as long as their attire is “decent and respectful.”

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