Saudi Arabia on Wednesday passed a new law that criminalises sexual harassment, to go into force with a royal decree, ahead of lifting a decades-old driving ban on women in the kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The Saudi Shura Council, the country’s legislative body, officially approved a bill that introduced a jail sentence of up to five years and SAR 300,000 ($80,000) fine.
“[The law] aims at combating the crime of harassment, preventing it, applying punishment against perpetrators, and protecting the victims in order to safeguard the individual’s privacy, dignity, and personal freedom which are guaranteed by Islamic law and regulations,” the Shura Council’s statement read.
The legislation has been approved by the cabinet and is awaiting an expected royal decree. It comes almost a month before a driving ban on women is set to be lifted on 24 June.
Earlier this month, Saudi authorities arrested at least seven women’s rights activists for “attempting to undermine the security and stability of the kingdom.” At least four of them have been released.
Last year, Saudi Arabia announced it will lift a decades-old ban on women driving, marking a major shift in the kingdom, as it comes as part of reforms that the 32-year-old Crown Prince sMohammad bin Salman implemented recently. Following that decision, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz called for drafting a law criminalising sexual harassment.