Saudi Arabia's First Law On Domestic Abuse, But Husbands Still Have Control
SAUDI GAZETTE, BBC, LE MONDE (France)
RIYADH – For the first time in Saudi Arabia, a new law has been passed that prohibits all forms of physical and sexual abuse, a measure hailed by human rights groups as a breakthrough in protecting women and children.
Sources at the Ministry of Social Affairs told the Saudi Gazette newspaper that the law, officially approved by the cabinet on August 26, would treat as an offense all forms of exploitation, as well as physical, psychological and sexual abuse or threat of abuse, both at home and in the workplace.
Until now, violence against women and children inside Saudi homes has been legally considered a private matter. Le Monde reports that the law nevertheless still requires a woman to obtain her husband's permission to file such a complaint, which the Saudi National Society for Human Rights noted will still de facto shield many abusive men from prosecution.
Those who are reported could now face a minimum jail term of one month and a maximum of one year, or fines up to $13,000. In case of repeat offenders, the punishment will be doubled, reports the Saudi Gazette . The law also stipulates that anyone who knows about any cases must immediately report it to the authorities.
Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja told the Saudi Press Agency that provisions in the law also offer shelter, assistance, and psychological, social and health care for victims.
Saudi Arabia's first public campaign ad against domestic violence features a woman in a niqab with a black eye.
He also said that a specific provision in the law is meant to prevent abuses at workplaces. In the private and public sector, workers who know about any case of abuse shall report it.
The law was welcomed as a positive step by several prominent figures, as it can curb domestic violence in a society still utterly dominated by men. However, a women’s rights activist told the BBC that the law needed to be fully implemented.