For decades, victims of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia lived in fear, unable to guarantee protection from their abusers. However, a significant change in the way the kingdom's legal system deals with domestic violence cases is slowly reigniting their hope. In recent months, men involved in the beating or harassment of women have been receiving stricter punishments than ever before.
This week, Riyadh's public prosecution referred a man who threw a hammer at his wife to court, urging its presiding judge to sentence him to the maximum punishment. In the incident's details, the abusive husband nearly killed his partner with the metal tool as she waited for the family driver outside the couple's home. The attack was captured on CCTV cameras.
After reporting the defendant to authorities, the man was arrested. The public prosecution's stance on the matter and their recommendation of a maximum sentence stem from the fact that the man has been involved in several other domestic assaults yet previous legal action didn't deter him from attacking his wife again.
News of this specific case comes at a time when the kingdom's Public Prosecution and Ministry of Labor and Social Development are working together to curb the number of domestic violence incidents.
In previous years, the country's legal system failed many women who amped up the courage needed to report an abuser in a patriarchal society. This is the reason why many constantly criticize Saudi authorities when it comes to this issue in specific, accusing them of cultivating a misogynistic environment and legal systems that further encourage violence and discrimination against women.
The case of Majid Manei Al Omeir, a Saudi husband who allegedly abused his wife, is just one example of existing loopholes in the system. Last year, a video in which Al Omeir's wife was heard screaming for her life as she was being beaten went viral on social media. Soon after, authorities launched an investigation into the case but claimed the incident had been fabricated, adding that no evidence of abuse was found. However, the woman who filmed the video alongside thousands of others on social media have claimed authorities were covering up the crime due to the fact that Al Omeir is related to Assir governorate's official spokesman, Saad bin Abdullah Al Thabit.
Authorities have been working on curbing domestic violence rates
While there's still a lot to be done, things seem to be changing for the better as the country seems serious about tackling the alarming rise in reported domestic abuse cases.
The changes that have already been made are encouraging more victims to stand up to families who normalize gender-based violence and demand justice. However, it's important to note that thousands of women continue to struggle to report abuse they're subjected to, which means cases are still underreported in Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom's authorities have long been working on developing several action plans to support victims. In 2014, Saudi Arabia expanded its Protection Against Abuse laws to ensure they covered anyone who isn't given their rights at home, including the right to get identification papers, education, and health care.