Saudi Arabia, sexual assault in Al Dammam, Saudi man arrested for groping woman, sexual assault in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's Attorney General Saud Al-Moajab refused to release two recently arrested sexual harassers from prison on bail, instead referring them to court, Al Riyadh newspaper reported

The men were detained earlier this week in two separate cases of harassment that went viral on social media. 

One of the incidents saw a man approach a woman's car in an animalistic way, spit and lick his spit off her window, flip her off, and pull up his thawb as if about to reveal his genitals. 

The other saw a harasser rub his genitals against a woman at a local supermarket. 

The cases sparked outrage across the kingdom and led thousands to question the way officials were implementing the country's anti-sexual harassment law

News of Al-Moajab's decision not to release the harassers marks a change in the way officials often deal with cases of sexual harassment in the kingdom. 

A source told StepFeed that in a few previous cases of harassment, perpetrators would be released on bail and would stand trial while they're out of prison. However, they added that this will no longer be the case as Saudi officials work towards curbing the alarming rate of sexual harassment across the kingdom. 

"Authorities are adamant on sending a message to every harasser that they won't escape strict punishment if they violate the kingdom's anti-sexual harassment law. The backlash that came with the recent cases led to a reevaluation of the legislation and we expect that there will be a change in how it's applied," the source explained. 

The recent cases are already leading to change

In the wake of the two recent incidents, the country's anti-sexual harassment law was "put to test" as thousands demanded that police take stricter actions against harassers.

Local authorities responded to the public's demand in this regard, with the kingdom's public prosecution issuing a strong-worded warning against harassment in all its forms just hours after the arrests were made in the two cases. In it, officials emphasized that anyone found guilty of harassing women will be handed out severe punishment.

They also reminded harassers that under the currently implemented Saudi criminal law, harassment of women is punishable by imprisonment of two years and a fine of 100,000 riyals ($26,662). Anyone caught committing the crime for a second time can be imprisoned for five years and fined 300,000 riyals ($79,986).

The attorney general's refusal to release those detained on bail is also a sign of change when it comes to harassment cases. The immediate arrests that were made after the recent incidents are another positive indication. 

Sexual harassment continues to be a major problem in the kingdom

Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia passed an anti-harassment law, such incidents still happen on a daily basis

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, also found that Saudi Arabia witnessed an 11.4 percent increase in sexual harassment cases in 2016, compared to 2014.

The fact that Saudi women are now defying social norms and moving to expose their harassers is changing the way the issue is dealt with in the kingdom. 

Their stories have also revealed the severity of the issue in the country and the need to work towards finding solutions for it.