Manama: A court in Dammam has sentenced a man to eight months in jail and to 240 lashes for harassing girls at shopping centres.
The man, aged in his 20s, was spotted and arrested by members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in the Eastern Province, Saudi news site Sabq reported on Sunday.
He was referred to the Public Prosecution and was charged with harassment.
Online users hailed the ruling, arguing it was fair although some viewers said that the penalty should have been more severe.
Some users said that in some cases the young women through their attitudes and some gestures encouraged the men to approach them.
Saudi Arabia has a strict policy towards harassing women in public areas and judges often include lashes in their verdicts.
In July, the country expressed outrage when a video clip showing a mass harassment by a gang of youngsters of two girls in the Red Sea city of Jeddah emerged.
The video showed how the group of adolescents followed the two girls, one of whom was fully veiled and the other with only the upper half of her face showing, as they were taking a stroll along the corniche.
The two girls pleaded with the raucous teenagers to leave them alone, but their pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears.
The harassment was recorded on a smartphone and the video clip went viral on the internet, prompting social media users to call for strong action against the “anti-social elements.”
Prince Khalid Al Faisal, Governor of Makkah Province, issued directives to arrest those involved and to intensify security presence in parks and recreational areas to ensure the incident was not repeated.
In 2013, young men arrested for harassment were flogged inside the mall where they had verbally abused a group of girls.
The young men were arrested after a video clip of their verbal confrontation with the girls at the mall’s parking lot went viral on social networks.
The court issued jail sentences of between one month and five months and ordered that the lashings be carried out at the mall.
According to a media report, around 60 per cent of harassers in Saudi Arabia were Saudis while the remaining 40 per cent were foreigners living in the kingdom.