It isn’t often that I get to write something good about Saudi Arabia. This country is right up there with Iran and North Korea as oppressive, backwards and downright out of place for the twenty-first century.
The Saudis have instituted a groundbreaking new law: Beating your wife is now illegal. Until now, a man could beat his wife and children because it was considered a private matter. At least the law now states that the man can be imprisoned for a year or fined up to $13,000. Whether this is going to be enforced is another matter, but at least coming home from work in a grumpy mood does not mean that the wife and kids can be punching targets.
The new law also includes the country’s first shelters for abused women. Yes, the Saudis are getting enlightened. Women shelters weren’t even considered back in the medieval ages, which Saudi Arabia has yet to fully emerge from. Soon, women might even get the right to drive, and the Saudis will approach the dawn of the twentieth century.
This new law is not a complete surprise. A few months ago, the first anti-domestic abuse ads with phone numbers for battered women to call were published. It is doubtful that hotline helped much more than to offer some verbal support to the women since wife beating was still a legal activity.
However, there remains a significant flaw in the law. Since women can’t drive, National Society for Human Rights member Suhaila Zain Al Abideen Al Hammad noted that a male relative must still bring a battered woman to authorities for her to file a complaint.
Progress. In Saudi Arabia, it is measured by inches.