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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Saudi Arabia passes domestic violence law

Saudi Arabia isn't known for advancing women's rights. The country is quite notable for its anti-women views on many subjects. Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive, work or travel without permission from their male guardian. Things are changing though. Recently, the country passed a law designed to combat domestic violence.

Human rights groups have welcomed the decision, but caution on how it will be accepted and implemented. Saudi Arabia's legal system is based on sharia law and contains several archaic laws that are distinctly anti-women. An example is a woman who alleges rape. In order to prove she was raped under sharia law her rapist needs to confess or the act needs to be witnessed by four trustworthy males. If the women alleging rape is married, the rape is considered to be an act of adultery. The penalty for a woman who commits adultery can be stoning.

The domestic violence law seeks to end violence at home and in the workplace. It will be implemented within 90 days and is meant to protect all citizens but mostly women and children. The new law makes physical and sexual violence punishable with a minimum jail sentence of one month and a maximum sentence of one year and can include a fine of up to $13,300. Repeat offenders can be given double the sentence if a judge in the case chooses to make it so.

A Saudi writer and blogger, Eman Al Nafjan (@Saudiwoman), told CNN: “Having this in a country where we still have male guardianship system, where we still have child marriage –it's a contradiction-- these things are still legal and yet you're talking about protection from harassment. It doesn't seem like a system where a lot of action will be taken. This seems to be more about talking than actually implementing.”

@Saudiwoman has a point. The statistics on domestic violence in Saudi Arabia are not known. Many cases go unreported because of the counter-accusations that take place. The victims who do report often become targets of criminal prosecution and are further victimized.

Photo Credit: Domestic Violence Campaign Screenshot, King Kahlid Foundation

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