Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

Saudi law to help victims of domestic abuse

The new law was passed during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday

Women walk past a poster of Saudi Arabia's King Salman. Reuters 
Women walk past a poster of Saudi Arabia's King Salman. Reuters 

Plaintiffs in Saudi domestic violence cases can now request the attendance of a psychologist to listen to testimonies in court, a new law issued by the cabinet of ministers stipulated on Tuesday.

The new law allows psychologists to be present during questioning of those accused of domestic violence.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour and Social Development reported that more than half of 8,000 reported cases of physical or psychological abuse in 2015 was between spouses. This came two years after the Kingdom criminalised domestic violence.

The new law aims to make it easier to build cases against those who commit domestic violence. The penalty for anyone convicted of domestic abuse is up to a year in prison and a fine of 50,000 Saudi riyals (Dh48,900).

In 2005, Saudi Arabia established the National Family Safety Programme, a government body responsible for running a 16-hour-a-day helpline to for domestic violence victims. The programme also trains civil servants in how to address family abuse.

The programme reported an increase in child abuse since 2011 from 188 cases to 692 cases in 2016.

Domestic abuse of women is also high, with the National Family Safety Programme reporting that almost 25 per cent of women in Saudi Arabia are abused.

The latest law joins other pieces of legislature implemented as part of a new drive to promote women rights in the traditionally conservative kingdom. Days before the landmark decision to lift the ban on women driving in June last year, Saudi Arabia passed a law that made harassing women in cars punishable by up to two years in jail and 100,000 Saudi riyals.

Updated: February 20, 2019 02:46 PM