Saudi’s Protection Against Abuse System

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Is it really 2013? Not in Saudi, it isn’t. We’re pretty progressive considering we are still in 1434. Where in the world did a country pass into law a system to protect it citizens against abuse in the 15th century?! Of course, the system is based on a 1434 understanding of abuse but it remains something that’s hopefully better than nothing. So what does a 15th century system to protect society’s most vulnerable look like? It’s a system where children are protected from sexual abuse but a marriage between between a 50 year old man and an 11 year old girl is completely sanctioned and legal. It’s a system where the definition of abuse could be used against the victim since “not being loyal in performing duties” might be used by husbands to claim their wives are abusive for being disobedient and by employers against their employees. A 15th century protection system is a system that exists within a legal framework that considers all females as forever minors with a male guardian assigned to each. It is a system where each migrant worker is assigned to a Saudi citzen who can decide when, where and if the worker can work or go home. It’s a system where abuse is so institutionalised that the police are ordered to stop and arrest any woman for simply driving her own car.

Hala Al Dosari wrote an insightful post in Arabic on the main issues with the Saudi protection against abuse system and I’ve translated it below:
After first proposing the 17 point Protection from Abuse System to the Shura Council for discussion in 2013, last Monday the Saudi Council of Ministers finally passed it into law. Now all that’s left is for it to be regulated so that it can be implemented by the authorities.

However there are some concerns with what has been put forward:

1- No specialized government body or authority has been named for dealing with cases of violence and abuse. This is likely to create mechanism conflicts at implementation and negatively affect how authorities respond to cases.

2- No certified definitions of harm and abuse were adopted in the system. This is a handicap especially in light of the fact that the system’s definition ambiguously includes such terms as basic needs, misconduct, and failure to fulfill duties in its definition of abuse.

3- The objectives of the system are vague and numerous. They include protection and provisions for victims, accountability of perpetrators, raising awareness, and addressing behavioral phenomena. Yet the system does not say anything about how it will ensure the protection of victims or in what way it will address behavioral phenomena. At the same time the system completely neglects to mention anything about current institutionalized abuse or attempt to reform the regulations and legislation that creates a tractable environment for abuse such as the guardianship system; denying women some governmental services without the presence of their male guardian; and the migrant workers’ sponsorship system; and all other unjust regulations and legislation.

4- The system does not include any mechanisms to address cases when the vague concerned authorities fail to protect victims. The system also does not address the how to and conditions for raising cases to the administrative body of these authorities. Above all it does not assign a watchdog for grievances in the event that failure does occur.

5- The fact that the system leaves it completely up to the concerned authorities to assess cases and decide the severity of the response regardless of whether theses authorities are in healthcare, education, or police. The system does not implement or even discuss any specified criteria to determine the type of response needed. At the same time, the system dedicates several points to awareness raising and prevention campaigns. In article ten of the system about responding to abuse cases, the system makes a point to prioritizes guidance and prevention above all else. The stages of prevention and awareness should precede the stage of the actual occurrence of abuse and not the other way around. And leaving the assessment to the discretion of those informed is not productive considering the nature of the local culture and the importance of family reputations and ties above all else.

6- In point four of article seven, the system states that abusers should be called in and made to sign pledges as part of the response. This is already what is currently implemented and has proven to be useless in the protection of victims. The system is supposed to provide alternatives rather than maintain and endorse the traditional response mechanism that is currently in place to protect the family framework at the expense of its members’ safety.

7- The concerned authority is assigned the responsibility of assessing and responding to cases of abuse without putting similar powers in the hands if those who are exposed to abuse to report and seek protection.

8- In an excellent step, the system gives primacy of commitment in its implementation to all regional and international conventions and agreements that the Kingdom has signed. We will have to wait and see if and how this will be taken into account in incorporating and implementing the system within government bodies.

9- The system supports research and programs that address violence and abuse. This is an excellent step considering how much civil societies suffer currently from restrictions in exercising this role. One example of this is the persecution of the Saudi citizens who started the White Ribbon campaign to encourage men to speak out against domestic violence.


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28 responses to “Saudi’s Protection Against Abuse System

  1. As long as “laws” are based on royal decrees and ministerial announcements, there can be no accountability or implementations of these misleading steps. Like the decrees of municipal elections in 2004-5 and the appointment of 30 carefully selected women to join the toothless consultative council, this ministerial announcement will be no more than ink on papers as correctly explained by Dr. Hala Al-Dosari’s and competently translated by Eman Fahad Al Nafjan.

    How can a low be a low if its based on the whims of those who decree it. Laws can only be binding when they are based on the will of the people through legitimate representatives and independent local, regional and national legislative institutions, especially judicial systems.

    Currently, the Saudi courts are staffed by royal appointed religious judges who consider women mentally, emotionally and physically unfit to be the authors of their destines; therefore, they must be managed by males, even if a woman is 40 year old accomplished scientist, she has to obtain permission from her 10 year old son to travel out of the country.

    The men in power continue to treat the Saudi people, especially women, as if they were always “perpetual minors” who need to be controlled and dependent on the system in order for them to survive literally and figuratively. This practice is not only denigrating, but harmful to society and the country’s stability and progress.

  2. From a writing point of view may I suggest that you do not use long paragraphs like paragraph Nr 1 this week. Break it up and its easier for your readers to read.
    From a content point of view – I only recently discovered and started to follow your blog. The few I have received, including the above, are very interesting. Why don’t you write more often? You seem to have much to say, and it all seems to make good sense! There will never be change for the better if the good reasonable people don’t make big effort. Realise that its possibly difficult for many reasons, but wishing you the best.
    As an expat working here, not living in a compound, I find the whole scene and lifestyle fascinating. The coming years should be even more interesting indeed as the young facebook/youtube generation reach maturity and see things very much differently than their fathers and grandfathers. Change is coming. And God is good.

  3. MizLiz

    Thank you so much for providing this insightful explanation of what this is really going to mean for the women of Saudi Arabia. From the moment the news hit the wire services it was all over our local and national news here in the USA.

    All of the talk shows on radio and tv were discussing it. Some were calling in to the hosts saying it was a public relations move for the rest of the world to see. Others thought it was an action with no teeth. ALL were happy that SOMETHING was finally happening for the women. A few felt that this was the first break in the guardianship issue. Only time will tell.

    I hope the Saudi people know how much interest there is in this issue. The citizens of the nations of the world do not support the way the women and girls are treated in your country in 2013. It is beyond belief that any nation, including mine, would continue to look the other way knowing how half of the Saudis are treated. If your country did not sit on OIL the USA would voice clear opposition to your human rights. It is so sad but so true.

    I pray for you that this is making real progress in the issue of stopping abuse.

    Miz Liz

  4. Salam,

    If I may share, I think the 15th century is around the age of Renaissance. & they say the Renaissance was inspired by the Golden Age of Islam. [] My personal view is, muslims were at the height of wisdom at that era, but somehow slide afterwards. So the 15th century is not the problem. Maybe it’s muslims in this time. I love the muslims in the ancient times.

  5. Pingback: Saudi Protection Against Abuse Law and Sexual Harassment | An Eye on Saudi Blog

  6. mohd noh majid

    Wahabi belief, even the pretence of it, makes the Saudi monarchy resistant to change and democracy. Like any other totalitarian system, an attempt at pluralism will weaken both the regime and the dogma that upholds it.

  7. Until the Muslims come to terms with collective unity, correct interpretation and application of their religion and with what Islam demands and defines consistent with time, they will remain under largely Western domination. Until authoritarian regimes everywhere are utterly destroyed and give way to a new Islamic order, the fortunes of the Ummah will never rise.

    “Ye are the best of peoples evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah (God). If only the people of the Book had faith, it were best for them. Among them are some who have faith but most of them are perverted transgressors (Quran S-3, v-110)

    • What Muslims need is a separation between state and mosque. Religion is not a sack of potato one can buy cook and eat. Religions are beliefs that must be left for the individuals to decide whether to believe or not.

      The Christians and Jews figured that centuries ago. Women in their societies drive tanks, fly F-14s and command space shuttles. Muslim women are considered and treated as second class citizens (in some countries not even citizens) and some of them are not allowed to drive cars to take their dying children to emergency rooms. All done in the name of Allah and Islam. Go figure.

      The West is not responsible form Muslims utter backwardness, Muslims are.

      Please define Ummah and its background.

      • What i would suggest is muslims embrace the Holy Quran & Sunnah as the muslims in ancient times did. At that time, muslims spread from Spain to China. And they contributed enormously to scientific achievements (algebra, cannon of medicine, optics etc). In Spain itself, the arrival of muslims marked the Golden age of Jewish culture in the Iberian Peninsula. (

      • What Muslims need to embrace in the 21 century are sciences, secular pluralism, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, accountability, transparency, equality among genders, protection of minority (Christians and Jews) and expatriates rights, non-sectarian judicial systems, non-sectarian rule of law, free elections and elimination of all forms of discrimination against non-Muslims and Muslim minorities.

        Non-Muslims under Muslim rule in Spain were treated as second class citizens just like the do now.

      • No. From my reading they were in the Golden age of Jewish culture. والله أعلم

        “Beginning in the 8th century, Muslims had occupied and settled most of the Iberian Peninsula. Jews, who had lived in these regions since Roman times, were considered “People of the Book” and given special status and often thrived under Muslim rule. The tolerance of the Muslim Moorish rulers of al-Andalus attracted Jewish immigration, and Jewish enclaves in Muslim Iberian cities flourished as places of learning and commerce.”

        And back in the early centuries of Islam, the muslims were enormously contributing to science (algebra, canon of medicine, optics etc). They also spread across the world, from the west of Spain to east of China. There was Admiral Zheng He who commanded fleets around the world in the 15th century, earlier than the Europeans. Now, the muslim women we do have are like Zara Salim Davidson in the east, Lalla Salma in the west. الحمد لله

      • Zara & Salma lives in this year. They’re still alive.
        I’m not dead yet too, & this is my kinda science:

    • Anonymous Blue

      I have to agree with Ali H. Alyami on this. Religion and state do not belong together. Furthermore, certain parts of traditional islamic texts both in the Quran and the hadith-litterature are inherently misogynistic. That is a fact that cannot be denied, even though there are parts that could be used to argue for equality between the sexes as well. The question is, what parts do we need, and want, in a modern world and what parts can we agree on are outdated and unwanted.

    • Zara & Salma lives in this year. They’re still alive.

    • AAB

      You think that by following Islam closer, Saudi Arabia will evolve into modern times? Islam is the reason Saudi is about 1000 years behind the world. All of the laws are based on the laws of islam. If they move even closer to it, they will be about 1500 years behind

  8. What Next ? Support for the Islamist Republicans in Syria ? Democracy ? Abdication ? Maybe Saudi Woman was Right all along ?

  9. Anonymous Blue

    And yet the more conservatice and traditional Muslims outside Spain saw Al Andalus as innovators and going astray from the true religion, that is why the Khilafah in Spain was not only attacked by non-muslim armies but by muslim armies as well. Spain was, during its “golder age”, far away from an ideal islamic state and it is amusing how, especially convervatives and other salafis (not saying you are one @nisa) often use Andalus as a “golden example” when their historical counteparts saw Andalus as evil and degenerated. Nuf’ with the history classes.

    • Please. And I know this isn’t about me, but come on. People say bad things about me too it doesn’t mean I am what they say. When people say wrong things about you & then the whole society said that too, but is it true? Nuf said.

  10. “Saudi Women Gain New Reforms”

    CDHR’s Commentary: “Against the expectation of many observers, social change continues in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Recent reforms have particularly affected the status of women. At the end of August, the Saudis took a remarkable and surprising step by criminalizing domestic violence.” This article “Saudi Women Gain New Reforms” makes it sound as if the absolute Saudi monarchy and its most repressive system and extremist religious establishment are opposed to abuses of women. This cannot be more distant from the reality on the ground. Discrimination and abuses of women’s basic rights are government policy as alluded to by some comments in this misleading piece.

    The writers refer to the ministerial announcement as a “law” when in reality a codified rule of law (as opposed to the arbitrary Shariah law which is the law of the land in Saudi Arabia) is considered antithetical to Shariah and Islamic teachings.

    There can be no worse abuse of women than justifying the marriage of girls, at any age, as currently occurs under the Saudi government’s Shariah law, as implied in the courageous Eman Al-Nafjan’s comment. If the Saudi autocrats and theocrats are serious about protecting women from abuses then they should institute a non-religious rule of law that is enforced by an independent judicial system. The judges should be popularly elected or confirmed by freely elected assemblies rather than appointed by and only accountable to the king and his ruling family.

    To repeat the Saudi government controlled media’s (all editors are appointed by the government) praises of the Saudi oligarchs for announcing cosmetic steps designed to silence their critics and appease the international community is deceptive at best.

  11. why do not the women in the world start a movement in support of saudi women. all the women should come in solidarity march on 26 october for the rights of women.

  12. MizLiz

    Mohammed, I agree with you and I think it may happen on that date in the large cities. I live in a very small town now but use to live in Chicago and Manhattan so I know they must be organizing. Given the amount of press coverage and interest that the blogs have for the women of Saudi I would be surprised if there was not support shown where it would make a difference. The major cities would get the attention of the national news outlets so lets wait and see what happens.

    I use AOL and am doing research on buying my next car and the first thing that came up yesterday was a long article about the Saudi Womens Oct 26th driving and the driving ban. Sweden is selling support tee shirts!

    Don’t give up! The world is watching. Even though we can’t read the language on the tweets we click anyway on those great videos that show the driving on You Tube!

    Never give up. Never give in.

  13. it seems many Saudi women are too busy complaining about what they dont have & dont realise that what they do have is a better lifestyle than many other muslim women worldwide.
    im sure theres literally millions of muslim women worldwide, who would be willing to swap with you poor oppressed Saudi women & exchange their freedom for the standard of living you enjoy.

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