Saudi ministry to crack down on domestic abuse

According to the new system, abusers could face imprisonment periods ranging from one month to a year

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The Saudi ministry of Social Affairs is to start implementing a system that will tackle domestic violence and offer greater protection for children.

Nisreen Abu Taha, social researcher and head of public relations at the ministry’s social protection unit in Makkah Region, said the system, approved by the Council of Ministers, would be implemented within two weeks.

She said: “It will be put in action just after the procedures are finalized. The new system will set tasks assigned to each government body regarding violence issues.”

The punishment for abusers includes imprisonment for one month to a year and a fine of SR5,000 to SR50,000.

There are a number of government bodies that will work with the Ministry of Social Affairs to implement this system, including the Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and the police.

The system, she explained, will offer aid to victims such as counseling as well as increasing public awareness about domestic violence and abuse.

“The system covers domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, rape and not allowing women to work,” explained Abu Taha.

She said that the ministry is ready to implement the new system the moment it receives the penal guide.

The new system will ensure that security officials handle cases and issues involving women without having to refer to a male guardian, as is the case now.

The system also puts the responsibility on individuals and concerned bodies to inform the authorities about any abuse cases.

The system, she said, is highly confidential and protects the identity of any person who informs the police about possible abuse.

According to Abu Taha, the ministry has employed more staff to man its hotlines.

“The new system opts to protect children, women, and disabled people of both genders.

“It also provides accommodation for severe abuse cases for 40 days to three months.”

The Human Rights Commission announced earlier this year that the number of domestic violence cases involving women and children has increased. They received 576 cases last year compared to 292 in 2012.

This number does not include cases received by other bodies including the National Human Rights Society, the Ministry of Social Affairs, protection offices at hospitals, education institutes and the police.

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