The “Protection from Abuse” law is the first of its kind for the country, which has faced criticism for failing to protect women and domestic servants in what is a fiercely patriarchal society.
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The law was approved by the Saudi Cabinet after a campaign by charities, The Times said. The move also has strong support from sections of the Saudi royal family.
According to the report, the law imposes jail sentences of up to one year and fines close to £9,000 for those found guilty of physical or psychological abuse. Those who report violence against them are granted anonymity and immunity from prosecution if the case is not proven in court.
In the past, women reporting domestic violence in the kingdom had to be accompanied to a police station by a male guardian. The new law allows them to go alone.
“It’s a step forward but the law has so many loopholes. It could even be used by the abuser against the victim because of the way it defines abuse,” said Eman al-Nafjan, a prominent women’s rights activist in Riyadh.
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