Saudi woman groped? Then on the pillory

For the first time, a Saudi man has been sentenced to publish his name in local Saudi newspapers for sexually harassing a woman. This is a punitive measure that was introduced at the beginning of last year but has not yet been imposed.

Saudi media reported that a judge in the Muslim-holy city of Medina on Tuesday sentenced Yasser Muslim al-Arawi to eight months in prison, a fine of 5,000 rials (1,165 euros) and the publication of his conviction by name in local media. According to the newspaper Specimen from Medina, the man had groped the woman from behind and harassed him with obscene remarks.

Sexual harassment has only been a criminal offense since 2018 in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, where women are still discriminated against men in many respects. A year ago, after much discussion, the three-year-old law was amended to ‘naming and shaming‘ of the perpetrators. It is up to judges to determine whether the seriousness of the offense requires that extra measure.

family honour

Some conservative Saudis at the time opposed the amendment, because such a publication would not only harm the honor of the accused but also that of other family members. Family honor is considered a great asset in Saudi Arabia. However, proponents argued that it was high time for this adjustment, partly because until then women who were victims of sexual harassment or abuse often incurred a greater stigma in society than the male perpetrators. They hoped that this extra punishment would have a deterrent effect.

Also read: Flight is tempting for Saudi women

The new law fits in with the policy of the Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler in the country, Mohammed bin Salman, to liberalize the country in some areas. Women are now allowed to drive themselves and attend concerts. However, women who, for MbS’s taste, are too emphatic for women’s rights still risk being jailed.

Last weekend it was announced that the Saudi princess Basma bint Saud (58) and her adult daughter, who had been imprisoned for three years, had been released. They had never been tried or even charged. However, the princess was known as someone who advocated more rights for women and a constitution instead of Sharia, the Islamic law that now serves as a guideline.

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