Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has passed a ban on domestic violence and other forms of abuse against women for the first time in the Kingdom’s history.
The cabinet approved the ban on physical or sexual violence earlier this week, which applies both at home or within the work place.
The legislation makes domestic violence a punishable crime for the first time. It also provides treatment and shelter for victims of abuse and holds law enforcement agencies accountable for investigating and prosecuting allegations of abuse.
The ban includes penalties of a maximum12 month jail sentence and fines of up to $13,000.
“All civilian or military employees and all workers in the private sector who learn of a case of abuse — by virtue of their work — shall report the case to their employers when they know it,” Alnbawaba reported the cabinet as saying in a statement. “The employers shall report the case to the Ministry of Social Affairs or police when they know it.”
A campaign calling for an end to violence against women was run for the first time earlier in the year, using an image of a woman wearing a hijab with her eyes visible through slits in the veil.
Domestic violence has previously been considered legally a private matter in the Arab state, until the poster was released to encourage more open discussions of the issue.
In the domestic violence advert, one of the woman’s eyes appears blackened and bruised, with the slogan “Some things can’t be covered up” written in Arabic underneath.
The campaign aims to “provide legal protection for women and children from abuse in Saudi Arabia” and is endorsed by the King Kahalid Charitable Foundation, who describe “the phenomenon of battered women in Saudi Arabia” as “much greater than expected”.