DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman continued his push to improve women’s rights in the Kingdom this week, calling on the interior minister to draft a law criminalizing sexual harassment.
The announcement came just days after the decree lifting the ban on women drivers.
The interior minister has been given 60 days to draft the new sexual harassment law enforcing penalties on perpetrators, according to Saudi daily Okaz.
“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 royal decree states.
It continues by noting the “importance of passing a law that criminalizes it [sexual harassment] and outlines the necessary penalties that categorically prohibit such acts and deter anyone who feels tempted to commit them.”
A 2014 study revealed that nearly 80 percent of women aged 18-48 said they had been exposed to some form of sexual harassment.
And the problem appears to not be going away. Canada’s Institute for International Research, revealed that the Kingdom had seen an 11.4 percent increase in sexual harassment rates in 2016, compared to 2014.
It is not the first time Saudi Arabia has considered dealing with the issue. In 2014 the Shoura Council in Saudi considered a bill tackling verbal and physical harassment according to local press reports.
That draft considered penalties that included fines of 500,000 riyals ($133,322), to jail terms and floggings.
The draft comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is modernizing its economy under the Vision 2030, including giving women more rights that will ultimately free them up to join the workforce.
Earlier this week King Salman issued a royal decree that allowed women to apply for driving licenses and drive by June 2018.
And Fatimah Baeshen – the former socioeconomic strategist and a director of the Arabia Foundation – became the first woman to be appointed spokesperson for the Saudi embassy in the US.
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