Isn’t it about time for a draft law to protect children from abuse?

Prof. Fawziah Al Bakr has had a long history in human rights activism. She is a professor of education at King Saud University. She is also a writer who spent three months in prison for her columns. You can read a translation of her article on gender apartheid here and you can follow her on Twitter here.

This is a translation of an article  written by Prof. Al Bakr published in Al Jazirah newspaper today.

It is no longer easy to read our local newspapers, now full of painful news, especially related to children, young orphans and disadvantaged minors and women. These are those most vulnerable in a society that tends to substantiate male superiority while perpetuating the weakness and subordination of women and children.

Prof. Fowzia Al BakrThe story of the little girl Lama that was sexually abused and murdered by her father, who is now in prison awaiting trial, and other recurrent stories like it, show the power of men in this society and their capability of harming weaker parties unable to defend themselves due to lack of awareness, mechanisms and laws that protect children and women from all kinds of harassment and abuse.

Societies are based on families caring for their children. A father and mother’s immediate responsibility in every family is to care for and nurture their children, but that is not what occurs in all cases. In Saudi Arabia, there is a need to form laws that protect weaker entities within the institution of the family. The absence of such laws produce cases like Lama, who die waiting for justice, and this absence of legislation will keep producing others like Lama we may or may not know about.

In the past, it was acceptable and feasible to address similar cases within the context of the family and neighborhood due to the small population of Saudi at that time and the simplicity of the social system. This is no longer possible in this day and age. The population of Saudi has grown enormously and every family within this modern lifestyle system has practically barricaded themselves inside their cement homes, isolated from others around them. Many negative lifestyle options have now become accessible such as drug use and alcohol while the legal system has not caught up by implementing legislation, protocol and social services to prevent and protect against abuse and neglect.

Our modern times have seen a shift in how we define and view terms like childhood, abuse, neglect and other terms relating to rights in modern social institutions. Our generation was subjected to many forms of verbal and (maybe physical) abuse from teachers, parents, relatives and neighbors according to the prevailing intellectual structure of the society; as the Arabic proverb goes the meat is for the teacher and the bones for the parents. If at that time society did not criminalize many forms of abuse, today there is no room for such practices, even if it is for noble goals. No one can hit a child under the pretext of disciplining or slap a teenager under the pretext of returning him or her to their senses, let alone deliver deliberate harm or neglect or sexual abuse as poor Lama faced that left her body lying in the morgue for four months!!

It is time to wake up. Such practices must be criminalized because it is a crime in our modern time’s definition. Many of the frighteningly light court rulings on cases of domestic abuse do not correspond to the severity of the crime. Civil and Shariah laws should be updated to catch up with Saudi society’s intellectual shift in the understanding of rights and duties. All kinds of abusive behavior against children and women should be clearly identified by law makers and Sharia laws and codified.

There is an immediate need to call for a draft law that clearly defines all forms of abuse including verbal, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse and other forms of sexual harassment and abuse that women and other minorities in society face.

We have grown weary of hearing about the Lamas of our society. Their stories, reverberated by the newspapers and satellite channels, nationally and internationally, have created an awareness among society regarding the lack of a basic law for the protection against abuse. It is high time for legislation to cover this deficiency. Saudi Arabia has signed many international treaties that ensure basic human rights for all and rejects any kind of discrimination. Islamic laws also emphasize the protection of rights for all. Our shared religion and these treaties could help us to initiate laws against neglect and abuse that many have long waited for.


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16 responses to “Isn’t it about time for a draft law to protect children from abuse?

  1. Dr. Fowzia Al-Bakr is not only courageous and enlightened patriot citizen, but visionary and has been in the forefront of reminding us that due to its centrality to Islam and its holy shrines, Saudi Arabia can set a positive example for its citizens and for Arabs and Muslims worldwide. She and the Saudiwoman are to be thanked, admired and congratulated for her tireless efforts and sense of responsibility to keep us informed about events whose impact on Saudi society is enormous and need to be addressed for the sake of the country, the people, Islam and Muslims worldwide.
    Advocating the necessity for establishing codified rule of laws is not only prudent, but will serve everyone’s, rulers and ruled, best interest because people would know their rights and obligations toward each other, their communities, their country, business dealings and authorities. Dr. Al-Bakr is correct, modernity, whether anyone likes it or not, has replaced traditional handshake, Enshallah and Bukrah Etha Allah Arrad. Growing up in the South, I remember that most conflicts and even blood crimes were resolved by community elders even though there were government’s agencies and services.
    At that time (the 1950s and 60s), people lived in small farms, helped each other, worked together and have known each other for centuries. That era ended with the unstoppable intrusion of human evolution, modernity, formal education, mechanized means of transportation and exposure to values most Saudis could not imagine, let alone, knew existed. The population, according to the only scientific survey conducted by Aramco in the early 1960s, was estimated at 3 million people at that time. Since then, people’s perceptions, expectations and understanding of each other, their rulers, their religion and their rights have melodramatically changed.
    However, the institutions and state of mind of the men who controls them remains the same or in denial of human evolution and globalization of information and sharing of values most of which ARE ALIEN to simple nomadic lifestyle and traditional ways of dealing with problems that could not be solved by tribal overlords and self-indulgent clerics’ duplicitous and capricious interpretation of what’s right and wrong.
    Time to see reality for what it’s and deal with it as it is now instead of insisting that the world is flat and human evolution is the invention of non-believers whose aim is the destruction of Islam and Muslims is an argument that no one believes anymore, if ever. The people are not stupid, uninformed or unable see what happened to amongst them.
    Dr. Al-Bakr, Saudiwoman and many other Saudi visionary and selfless men and women advocates of justice, equality and respect for human dignity deserve credits and admiration for trying to propel their important country into brighter, respectful and safe future.

  2. In the United States such a Bill might include such partisan political Attachments, as Gun Control, Immigration Reform, Welfare Reform, Tax Breaks for the Middle Class, Anti-Terror Legislation. That; “A Funny Thing Happens” between the Moral. or Ethical, Sociological, or Political; Affront, that comes as a result, of such an Offense to the Domestic “Status Quo” ?
    No, I. Believe such a perversion of the “Social Contract” only proves my point further. Capitalism can but look the other way ” The Euro gives, and the Euro takes away ” ? Democratic “Liberalism, Socialism, Partisanship ( Majority Rule ? ) ” only placates such a Tragedy further. The Solution to the human Psycho-Social dilemma of Darwinian Competition, can only be solved by its direct unmitigated address. Saudiwoman must either except the rigors and idiosyncratic faults of Fundamentalist Islam, Espouse the Republican Socialism of the Arab Spring, or wait for a larger Suite at the Brussels Ritz Carlton ?

    Hillary Clinton isn’t coming ! ( She doesn’t even have a position in the Government anymore )

    ” So many, doubtful, perished in the mountains, Climbing up crags to get a view of islands, So many, fearful, took with them their sorrow
    Which stayed them when they reached unhappy cities,
    So many, careless, dived and drowned in water, So many, wretched, would not leave their valleys
    It is our sorrow. Shall it melt? Ah, water Would gush, flush, green these mountains and these valleys,
    And we rebuild our cities, not dream of islands. ”
    W.H. Auden from Paysage Moralisé

    Support the Arab Winter !

    • JWB

      Did you have a point? I mean, were you trying to take a stand or articulate a position? Sounds like you are dumping on the USA and also degrading the act of helping children. Were you trying to make sense?

  3. Qamar

    Its all about the ‘saudi’ what about the expats ( many from the indian sub-continent) who make up a significant proportion of your country, they have no rights, are treated like dirt (literally), exploited and abused almost daily. But do we ever hear of any of them? No. Because even in the present day saudis from all classes and backgrounds share one common trait. Arrogance!

  4. eleonarb

    Re: Qamar

    You are right, but Dr. Albakr does not exclude anyone. In fact, she specifically says “minorities*”, which would be the category that expats fall under.

    *”There is an immediate need to call for a draft law that clearly defines all forms of abuse including verbal, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse and other forms of sexual harassment and abuse that women and other minorities in society face.”

    • *”There is an immediate need to call for a draft law that clearly defines all forms of abuse including verbal, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse and other forms of sexual harassment and abuse that women and other minorities in society face.” …. ?

      ROFLOL !
      Sharia Law for Liberals ?

  5. roxana aguilera

    Concuerdo plenamente con esta activista:no más Lamas !!!!!!Donde está la sensibilidad de la sociedad saudi ,es q no sienten piedad ???? Las palabras
    Ofensivas hacia menores o personas en desigual condición desventajosa es
    Actitud de COBARDES!!!! Como es también quien guarda SILENCIO y no sale
    En defensa .
    Mucho coraje el de esas activistas en Arabia. Como se puede vivir en un país
    De tanta indolencia por quien guarda de la justicia????
    Podrá cambiar ???

  6. It isn’t just a time for laws protecting children, it is time for a modern legal code.

    • Alois Saint-Martin

      Capitalism ! Or Thorns and Thistles ~

      • JWB

        If you can only think in those two extremes, you do not have much imagination for other possibilities? Or, were you trying to be humorous? If so, the joke failed on me. I see MANY options for Saudi Arabia to make sane modifications. Capitalism isn’t practiced in Saudi Arabia? Really?

  7. roxana aguilera

    La sharia no tiene q imponerse .las personas son libres!!!!!
    Todo lo q se relacione con conductas extremistas,sólo lleva a la muerte.
    La vida es bella ,el sol nace para todos y en la noche hasta las estrellas brillan,como la justicia.
    No hay mal q dure 100 años ni monarquias q resistan .
    Soy de cuba y estoy atenta al desenvolvimiento de lo q ocurre en bahairen
    Egipto ,etc.

  8. roxana aguilera

    Por la tv récord de brasil han dado la noticia q en Arabia Saudita el rey nomino 30 woman para trabajar en la creación de las leyes!!!!!!!,se vieron a ellas entrando en la sala de trabajo !!!esto es inédito????!!!!informaron q los clérigos están furiosos !!!!!!
    Q tiene para decir sobre esto?????
    Estoy feliz !!!!será la luz del fondo del túnel????
    Pienso siempre en uds,soy eterna solidaria .

  9. Reblogged this on Al-Must'arib (the vocational Mossarab) and commented:
    hmmm….. are we still asking this?… really? :-/

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