RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has passed a new law to criminalise sexual harassment, state media said Wednesday, less than a month before the conservative kingdom lifts its decades-long ban on women driving, reports AFP.
The kingdom’s hura Council, which advises the cabinet, passed a draft law on Monday which would introduce a prison term of up to five years and a maximum penalty of 300,000 riyals ($80,000).The law has been approved by the cabinet, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
It is “a very important addition to the history of regulations in the kingdom”, Shura Council member Latifa al-Shaalan was quoted as saying in an information ministry statement.
“It fills a large legislative vacuum, and it is a deterrent,” she added.
The new law appears to be in preparation for the historic lifting of the kingdom’s driving ban on women on June 24.
The move is part of a highly publicised liberalisation drive launched by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has also ended a decades-long ban on cinemas, allowed mixed-gender concerts and clipped the powers of the long-feared religious police.
But the social reforms appear overshadowed by the recent arrests of at least 11 activists, mostly identified by rights groups as veteran women campaigners for the right to drive and to end the conservative country’s male guardianship system.