Saudi Arabia: Sex harassment penalty irreversible

Cairo: A legal punishment against sex harassment is irreversible in Saudi Arabia even if the victim renounced own right or did not file a legal complaint, a state rights watchdog has said.

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In 2018, Saudi Arabia approved a law criminalising sexual harassment, making the act punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of SR300,000.

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The Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC) has said that in the crime of harassment, the victim’s renunciation of own right or failure to file a complaint does not deny the competent agencies the right to take the legal action they deem necessary to serve common good.

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The panel 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.

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According to the Saudi law, harassment carries punishment of three years in prison and a fine of SR100,000 or one of both penalties.

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But if the victim is a child, a person with special needs or has been subjected to the act while sleeping or unconscious, the crime is punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of SR300,000 or one of both penalties.

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The HRC has urged state and private sector institutions to put in place a mechanism to receive complaints of alleged harassment, verify them and hand down administrative punishment to offenders.

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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.

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