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Alex Wright

Saudi Arabia consumed by sexual harassment incident

Saudi social media users have called for stronger anti-harassment laws [YouTube]

Date of publication: 26 July, 2015

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A video of two veiled women being harassed during Eid has preoccupied the Kingdom amid arrests, surveillance cameras and calls for tougher laws.

A video posted online of an incident of sexual harassment against two young women by a group of men in Saudi Arabia has gone viral racking up over 1.5 million views in a week.

The two minute-long mobile phone footage has caused such a commotion that Mecca police announced earlier this week on Twitter that they had arrested several of the men in the video.

Local media also reported, Mecca police will be installing 112 CCTV cameras along the Jeddah waterfront because of the incident, an effort that will likely not rout out the core causes of sexual harassment.

The YouTube video shows two young women, one of whom is fully veiled and the other with only the upper half of her face showing, being surrounded and harassed by the men as they walk along Jeddah’s sea side during Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

In the wake of the online backlash another video appeared online allegedly showing the two women prior to the incident driving beach buggies and waving at on-looking men. In deeply religious Saudi Arabia women are banned from driving.

Social media users in the Kingdom widely condemned the incident and called for stronger anti-harassment laws in the country, while others said the pair had brought it on themselves.

Saudi Arabia currently has no anti-sexual harassment law set in stone. Last year, a draft law was proposed to the Consultative Assembly but it was dropped because some members thought it would lead to men and women “mixing together”.

The proposed law would have punished harassers with sentences of up one year in prison and 100,000 Riyal ($26,666) fines.

Despite the lack of laws, pressure from Saudi Arabia’s active online community often results in the harassers being arrested and tried.

In another viral video incident from 2013, young men were arrested for harassment after a video surfaced and were flogged inside the mall where the incident occurred in addition to receiving sentences of between one month and five months.

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