Saudi Arabia: Harass a Woman? Go to Jail!

Saudi Arabia has a plethoria of shopping malls.  From my home in the Mohamadiyah district of Riyadh I could easy go to 7 large high scale shopping malls in five minutes.  Until recently the shopping malls were only accessible to women and/or families.  Single Saudi men were prohibited from entering the mall in fear of following or harassing young women.

Saudi Arabia recently relaxed its law of not allowing single men entry into shopping malls.  However, this change may now result in a new law being put into effect.  In order to ensure that the female shoppers will not be harassed by young men who may be trying to talk to them or pass them a phone number, the new law is to imprison any young man found to be harassing a woman while inside the mall.

Both Saudi men and women have mixed reactions to the new law.  Many feel that imprisonment is too harsh a penalty.  Some Saudi men view the new law as another measure to make single men fearful to enter the malls that were earlier prohibited to them.

I personally think imprisonment is a harsh penalty for a “first time offender.”  Knowing the Saudi culture, I can envision some young men taking advantage of the relaxed law allowing them to enter shopping malls with the mindset to follow and/or make contact with women.  However, rather than imprison them, perhaps levying a fine and not allowing them to enter a mall for six months might be as effective?  Or better yet, have all young men be required to take a class on “mall etiquette and behavior.”

As the article also points out, it would be nice for women (and others) to receive more protection out on the streets from harassment of young men.  My late husband and I experienced cars of young men following us and especially if there were other young women in the car with us.  One time it was just the two of you and we found ourselves blocked in on a narrow street with a car full of young guys in front of us and behind us.  These are the kind of situations which are more dangerous as compared to the relatively safe and confined area of a shopping mall.


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