Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council on Wednesday passed a motion to name and shame sexual harassers as part of legal steps to fight sex offences in the country, local media reported.
A similar motion was previously blocked amid opposition from some members of the council, who argued that naming the offender also harms family members. Proponents, meanwhile, believe that introducing the name-and-shame penalty, already adopted in commercial wrongdoing in Saudi Arabia, would be a strong deterrence.
The House voted with majority on the proposal, based on a report from its Security Committee to add the suggested penalty to the anti-harassment legal system.
In 2018, the council approved a law to criminalise sexual harassment in the kingdom.
The aims of the measure are “fighting the crime of harassment, preventing it, punishing perpetrators and protecting victims, in order to preserve the privacy, dignity and individual freedoms as guaranteed by Islamic jurisprudence and regulations in place”.
It was drafted by the Interior Ministry after instructions from King Salman, according to media reports.
The law provides for penalties of up to two years in prison and fines which could amount to $26,600 (Dh97,700). In some cases, such as repeat offences, the sentence could be increased to five years in prison and fines of up to $80,000.
The bill, which preserves the anonymity of alleged victims, also criminalises incitement to sexual harassment, as well as falsely reporting an incident to the authorities.
It also stipulates alleged victims cannot withdraw a complaint or fail to report an incident to the police.
The rules also create an obligation for public and private institutions to make all necessary arrangements to prevent harassment.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has sought to fight sex offences and boost women’s rights as part of drastic reforms in the kingdom championed by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
The state Saudi Human Rights Commission has defined harassment as every verbal expression, deed or motion carrying sexual insinuation made by a person towards another referring to the body and honour or harming modesty in any way including modern technology methods.