Just one month since the rules on Saudi single men entering shopping malls were relaxed, a new law could land them in jail for attempting to exchange phone numbers with women, or other forms of harassment.
Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyad, ruled in March that single men in the Kingdom would be allowed to enter the capital's shopping malls in the evenings and weekends providing they did not "misbehave with women shoppers." (LA Times) However, the prince has now introduced permission for the authorities to imprison men found guilty of harassment in the malls.
In strictly segregated Saudi Arabian society it is forbidden for men to exchange phone numbers with the opposite sex. Now it could result in a five-day prison sentence for first offenders and 35-days for a second offence, Alarabiya reported.
The new law has met with mixed reaction in the Kingdom according to the Saudi Gazette. Some men feel it is unfair that only men are subject to strict punishments for harassment, whilst women who attempt to obtain the phone number of men will be left free to harass the Saudi male. Some women think the law is a good idea as they endure constant harassment in spite of the strict Saudi dress code that covers their beauty. They note they face more harassment on the streets though than in the malls which contain a heavy security presence.