Arab News reports that Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers — here called the Cabinet — has taken sweeping action to contain domestic violence in the Kingdom. The change in laws now requires the police to take action when complaints are made, something vastly different from the hands-off approach of the past. Due to cultural factors and social values, what happened within a home was seen as off-limits to officials. Now, complaints must be taken seriously. Unstated penalties will be assessed on abusers and protection of complainants will be given. Those who complain will also be protected against publicity.
The move, while welcomed by human rights groups, does not go far enough, they say. The problem of guardianship still remains. Under Saudi law and custom, a woman’s guardian must accompany her in all official actions. Police are hesitant, too, to enter a home where there is no male guardian present. These are legitimate concerns, but fixing them is going to much more difficult than addressing criminal behavior.
KSA declares war on domestic abuse
JEDDAH: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR & ROB L. WAGNER
In a landmark decision, the Cabinet on Monday passed a law making it a crime to commit domestic abuse. The law also provides treatment and shelter to victims of violence.
For the first time, public and private sector workers have been encouraged to report abuse cases to law enforcement authorities or the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The legislation now holds law enforcement agencies accountable for investigating and prosecuting domestic cases. Previously, police treated violence against women and children as a private domestic matter with few legal consequences.
Abuse victims also will have access to psychological treatment, health care and shelter. “All civilian or military employees and all workers in the private sector who learn of a case of abuse — by virtue of their work — shall report the case to their employers when they know it,” the Cabinet said in a statement. “The employers shall report the case to the Ministry of Social Affairs or police when they know it.”
The Cabinet did not provide specifics of penalties for convictions of domestic violence.