Saudi Arabia has passed a law to ban domestic abuse, its first legislation that attempts to protect the nation's women, children, and domestic workers, a human rights official announced on Thursday.
The "Protection from Abuse" law states that individuals found guilty of abusing someone physically or psychologically could face up to one year in prison and up to $13,300 in fines, Reuters reported
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The law was approved in a Saudi Arabian cabinet meeting on Aug. 26, and it reportedly stemmed from a local charity's push to establish punishment for abuse in the kingdom.
"This is a good law that serves major segments of the society in the kingdom, including women, children, domestic workers and nondomestic workers," Khaled al-Fakher, secretary general of the National Society for Human Rights, told Reuters.
The National Society for Human Rights is a government-licensed body that helped draft the new law.
Prior to the abuse ban, Islamic law, also known as Sharia law, set the punishment guidelines for those who were found guilty of abuse. Under Islamic law, the victim was often blamed for the assault.
In 2007, the Supreme Judicial Council sentenced a 19-year-old woman, who had been attacked and gang raped, to 200 lashes and six months in jail. The charge: she had been with a man whom she was not related to.
She was later pardoned by King Abdullah, but only after he faced international pressure, Reuters noted.
Sharia codes were often vague, allowing judges to come to their own conclusions. Generally, violence against against "disobedient" wives was permitted, and domestic violence was treated as a private matter in which judges did not intervene.
The new law is a step in the right direction for women's rights in the nation, especially because it is black-and-white.
"We are always in favor of an explicit law that does not need interpretations or personal judgment," Fakher added.
One year after the conviction of the 19-year-old rape victim, the United Nations urged Saudi Arabia to create laws to protect women.
Another important aspect of the new law is that it allows women to remain anonymous when they report abuse. In the past, victims were often afraid to report instances of domestic violence, fearing retribution from others in the community.
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