The new law is not restricted to women and applies to any individual regardless of gender. It aims to protect individuals from words, acts, implicit behaviour or innuendo of a sexual nature by one individual against another targeting that individual’s body, modesty or personal life by any means including modern technology and communications. The law aims to protect an individual’s dignity, privacy and personal freedom in accordance with Islamic Sharia rules and regulations.
Any individuals suffering or witnessing alleged harassment are under a duty to report the allegations. Public authorities are also able to raise complaints in the public interest. All organisations whether government or non-governmental and in particular within an employment context are under an obligation to take steps to prevent harassment occurring.
With respect to penalties for breach, in addition to any other potential penalty or punishment under general Islamic Sharia principles (which could include public lashing) or any other harsher punishment under other laws, the law provides for the following penalties for breach:
- 2 year prison sentence and/or a fine of SAR 100,000;
- 5 year prison sentence and/or a fine of SAR 300,000 if the victim of the harassment is a child, a person of special needs, if the perpetrator was in a position of power or influence over the victim, if the harassment occurs at a place of work, education or child care, if the victim and the perpetrator are of the same sex, if the victim was sleeping or unconscious, or if the harassment occurs at a time of crisis, accident, or disaster.
Employers, Government and Non-Government authorities will now need to take steps to comply with the new law.