New Saudi law helps curb cases of domestic abuse

According to the new law, reporting domestic violence is the collective responsibility of society

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The anti-domestic violence law passed by the Council of Ministers last year allows the authorities concerned to quickly intervene when a domestic violence case is reported and provide protection to victims, executive director of the National Family Safety Program Maha al-Muneef told the Saudi Gazette.

She said the law contains several provisions that guarantees, among other things, medical care to victims, their social rehabilitation and prevent continuance or repetition of violence.

According to the new law, reporting domestic violence is the collective responsibility of society. The identity of those who report the abuse will be kept confidential, al-Muneef said while adding that the law calls for providing shelter to domestic violence victims and requires law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute perpetrators.

The law stipulates a minimum of one month or a maximum of one year imprisonment to perpetrators or a fine ranging between $1,300 and $13,000 or both. In case the crime is repeated, the penalties will be doubled.

Al-Muneef, who was honored by US President Barack Obama earlier this year with the US Secretary of State’s International Woman of Courage Award, noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified domestic abuse as a public health problem as well as a social and family problem.

“The 67th General Assembly of WHO underlined the need for strengthening the role of the health sector in dealing with victims of domestic abuse.”

Al-Muneef said the new law has brought about a family safety culture wherein the rights of all parties are protected.

She said the family safety program aims at protecting the victims of domestic violence through a series of measures, including training programs and awareness campaigns.

“Saudi society strives to strengthen cooperation between government and private agencies as well as charities to increase awareness among members of society on the harmful effects of domestic violence and its negative impact in the long run,” she said.

“The program is designed to take precautionary measures against domestic abuse through awareness campaigns,” Al-Muneef said.

“The program has been instrumental in raising awareness among members of society in general and youths in particular about the dangers of domestic violence and child abuse. The program also works on providing training to increase awareness as well as to improve efficiency of professionals engaged in dealing with the cases of domestic violence, especially abuse of children.”

Referring to other activities envisaged in the program, Al-Muneef said the Center for Excellence and Research carries out scientific research into ways of curbing domestic violence after identifying priorities. It also works on developing partnerships between academics and local and international research bodies, extends necessary academic and logistic support to students pursuing higher studies in the field.

The program also handles a helpline (number 116111) for children who are victims of abuse. “Anyone under 18 years of age who are victims of abuse and misconduct or face problems that hamper their growth and development can contact the helpline to get free advice,” she added.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on June 29, 2014.

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