Saudi Arabia made history on Monday by banning domestic abuse for the first time. The law, which was approved during a cabinet meeting on August 26, is supposed to provide protections for people from “all forms of abuse.”
The “Protection from Abuse” law also offers shelter for abuse victims, along with “social, psychological, and medical aid” for those in need.
Saudi Arabia’s first domestic abuse law came into being after a local charity launched a nationwide campaign to bring awareness to violence against women in the country, reports Al Jazeera.
The Middle Eastern nation applies a strict form of Islamic law and imposes several restrictions on women. Under the new law, those found guilty of abuse will face a prison sentence of up to one year and up to $13,300 in fines.
The development is historic for the nation, which has often faced international criticism for its lack of laws to protect women and domestic workers from abuse.
Yahoo! News notes that the bill will end the era of judges deciding their understanding of Islamic Sharia law. In the past, judges used the Islamic law to pass judgement on domestic abuse. Some Sharia codes were seen as permitting mild violence against “disobedient” wives. Therefore, the court treated domestic violence as a private matter.
But that will no longer happen. Khaled al-Fakher, secretary general of the National Society for Human Rights, commented, “We are always in favor of an explicit law that does not need interpretations or personal judgement.” Fakher’s organization helped draft the domestic abuse law.
It also follows an unprecedented campaign headed by the King Khalid Foundation. The campaign, which started in April, was meant to raise awareness about violence against women in Saudi Arabia. Its main poster was of a woman wearing a veil who had one black eye. The caption read, “Some things can’t be covered — fighting women’s abuse together.”
While tribal traditions are still likely to keep some women from reporting domestic abuse in Saudi Arabia, the consequence for those found guilty of the crime has been raised.
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