Saudi Arabia announced new penalties for abuse against women on Wednesday that include imprisonment and hefty fines for any physical, psychological, or sexual assaults against women in the Kingdom.
The Saudi Public Prosecution Office has mandated a minimum jail sentence of no less than one month, and up to one year, for the act of attacking a woman.
In addition, there will also be a minimum fine of 5,000 Saudi riyals – $1,333 US dollars – and a maximum fine of 50,000 Saudi riyals, or $13,332 US dollars.
The news coincided with the observance of the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, commemorated every year on November 25.
Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has made significant legal reforms for women over the past few years, including granting women the right to drive and the ability to apply for passports and travel freely without the permission of a male guardian.
Saudi Arabian women have also greatly benefitted from economic legal reforms in the past three years, according to a World Bank report released in January, which concluded the Kingdom’s economy made the biggest progress globally toward gender equality since 2017.
Amendments have been adopted in Saudi Arabia to protect women from discrimination in employment, to prohibit employers from dismissing a woman during her pregnancy and maternity leave, and to prohibit gender-based discrimination in accessing financial services.
Saudi Arabia had a year of “groundbreaking” reforms in 2019 that allowed women greater economic opportunity in Saudi Arabia, the World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2020” study found.
The Kingdom “equalized the retirement age for women and men at 60 years, extending women’s working lives, earnings, and contributions,” the report said.
Women under threat during the coronavirus pandemic
Violence against women and girls, in particular domestic violence, has spiked worldwide since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The consequences of COVID-19 and preventative measures increases risks of violence for women, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Stress, the disruption of social and protective networks, loss of income and decreased access to services all can exacerbate the risk of violence for women,” according to a WHO report.