Wednesday 6 February 2008 (29 Muharram 1429)
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Shoura Panel Drafting Law to Protect Women in Workplace
Hassna’a Mokhtar, Arab News —
JEDDAH, 6 February 2008 — The Social, Family and Youth Affairs Committee at the Shoura Council is currently drafting a legal system for protecting women’s rights in the workplace, including sexual-harassment laws.

“The concept of women working in mixed environments is legally undefined according to Shariah and is understood in compliance with social norms,” said Mazen Balilah, Shoura member at the Cultural and Informational Affairs Committee, who proposed the idea of legislating the system during the council’s meeting on Monday. “It was a must to seriously consider a legislated system that governs the relationship between men and women in the workplace.”

The Research and Women Empowerment Department at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Khadija bint Khuwailid Center conducted a study about the problems that hinder the work of businesswomen. The department examined the Eighth Development Plan along with agreements the Kingdom has signed with international bodies and then organized a workshop for a group of businesswomen to discuss hurdles and difficulties they face.

“For women to contribute to the development of the country in all fields, problems that occur in the business world must be solved. There has to be a defined law that protects the rights of men and women in the workplace,” said Nashwa Taher, board member at JCCI. “For instance, an all-woman establishment isn’t allowed to run without having a director or chairman who is a man. This has to change. Women have proved to be professional and efficient in running their businesses.”

Maha Al-Hujailan, a medical researcher at King Khaled University Hospital in Riyadh, wrote an article in July 2007 discussing the problem of sexual harassment women undergo when hunting for jobs.

“Many Saudi women complain about sexual harassment when they apply for jobs or when they work in mixed environments,” said Al-Hujailain in her article. “A Saudi woman fears scandals and defamation even if she’s tyrannized … There are no clear strict laws that prohibit sexual harassment against women regardless of their circumstances. This legal gloominess opens the door for violators and makes the Saudi woman an easy prey.”

When asked about statistics for sexual harassment cases in the Kingdom, Balilah told Arab News that current studies would collect qualitative, not quantitative, statistics through contacting companies, banks and organizations that employ women and suffered from similar problems.

“We’ve been receiving sexual harassment complaints every now and then from human recourses officials in different companies or reading about such cases in local media reports,” said Balilah. “Sexual harassment laws exist everywhere around the world in communities where women are part of the labor force such as in America and Europe. Once the law is discussed and drafted, the committee will present it to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for approval and implementation.”


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