Last September, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ordered the drafting of an anti-sexual harassment law. 

Nearly a year later, the order has materialized as the kingdom's 150-seat Shura Council passed a long-awaited anti-harassment law, with a majority of 84 votes.

On Tuesday, the kingdom's legislative advisory body officially approved the draft bill, criminalizing sexual harassment. 

The new draft law aims to "fight the crime of harassment, prevent it, punish perpetrators and protect victims in order to preserve the privacy, dignity and individual freedoms as guaranteed by Islamic jurisprudence and regulations in place," according to the BBC.

In addition, the draft law carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $80,000.

"Saudi Arabia still has a long way to go, but I'm glad it's moving on the right track"

King Salman had ordered the preparation of the anti-harassment bill by the Ministry of Interior "in light of the negative impact of harassment on the individual, family and society". 

Shura Council member Dr. Latifa Al Shaalan said that the draft bill "is a very important addition to the history of regulations in the kingdom. It fills a large legislative vacuum, and it is a deterrent system when compared with a number of similar laws in other countries." 

The draft legislation comes days before women officially get to hit the roads, putting an end to the long-standing driving ban.

People on Twitter welcomed the news


"Thanks to all those who helped make the anti-harassment law a reality"

Others have questions: "Is flirting considered harassment?"

"Reform comes after arrest of 11 women's rights activists"

Earlier this month, Saudi authorities arrested nearly a dozen prominent activists - mostly women - for demanding rights that are now being dubbed as "reforms".

Saudi media reports suggested the detained activists were in violation of Article 12 of the Basic System of Governance, which "stresses" that the kingdom's "security and stability, its social peace and national cohesion" should be "strengthened and protected from sedition and discord."

The individuals were reportedly in contact with "foreign bodies to support their activities." 

They also "sought to recruit persons working in sensitive government posts as well as providing financial support to hostile elements abroad."

Among those detained is Loujain al-Hathloul, who was held in jail for more than 70 days back in 2014 after attempting to drive from the United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia. The activist's lawyer, Ibrahim al-Modimeegh, who formerly served as an adviser to the Saudi cabinet, was also arrested.

Saudi authorities have since released less than half of those detained.

Sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia

In recent months, a number of sexual harassment cases have been reported across the kingdom, with many Saudis demanding authorities to begin imposing laws in that regard. 

The edict is of vital importance in the kingdom, where women continue to face high rates of sexual harassment. 

According to a 2014 study, nearly 80 percent of women - aged 18 to 48 - said they have experienced some form of sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia.

The Institute for International Research, a Canadian institute specialized in research and field studies, found that Saudi Arabia witnessed an 11.4 percent increase in sexual harassment cases in 2016, compared to 2014.

Prior to officially criminalizing sexual harassment, Saudi authorities have been holding abusers accountable recently.

In recent months, they made immediate arrests in several abuse cases captured in videos that went viral on social media.