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MP presents draft bill to fight ‘sexual harassment’

 KUWAIT CITY, April 23: MP Kamil Al-Awadhi has presented a draft bill stipulating punishments for sexual harassment by adding a new article to the Penal Code; such as two years imprisonment and KD 5,000 fine. Article One of the bill stipulates addition of a new article - number 194 repeated to Penal Code number 16/1960 as follows: “Sexual harassment means unwanted sexual advances toward a man or a woman.

This includes physical contact, speech, telephone conversation and communication with sexual implications; whether the act is initiated by a man or a woman imposing on the other party.” Article Two states inclusion of article number 194 repeated (A): “Anyone who makes sexual advances without the consent of the other party shall be punished by serving a prison term not exceeding two years and fine not exceeding KD 5,000 or any of these penalties.

The punishment is doubled in the event the perpetrator uses the authority vested in him by law through orders, threats, coercion or pressure in order to obtain sexual benefits; whether the harassment is done verbally, deliberate touching, telephone calls, letters or any obscure act. Article Three stipulates adding new article number 194 repeated (B): “With the exception of the provisions of Article 83 of this law; it is not allowed to apply articles 180, 186, 191 and 192 to reduce punishment.” In all cases, if the punishment is imprisonment with hard labor or just imprisonment; the term should not be less than five years.

In the explanatory note of the bill, Al-Awadhi stressed the need to amend the Penal Code due to the rising number of sexual harassment incidents in the Kuwaiti society. He pointed out many countries, including some Arab nations, have amended the Penal Code to criminalize sexual harassment. He also cited the rising number of related cases like indecent assault, rape and kidnapping with forced sexual intercourse. He argued the previous rulings in such cases seem to have not served their purpose, particularly in deterring others and inflicting pain on the perpetrators.

He clarified the punishments for these crimes include death and life imprisonment which, undoubtedly, are severe; but in case Article 83 is applied, the punishment is reduced to a level that does not match the crime. In another development, the Educational Affairs Committee in the Parliament approved Wednesday the request of the government for a two-week grace period to rectify errors in Jaber University law number 4/2011.

Committee Chairman MP Homoud Al- Hamdan disclosed the discussion revolved around the establishment of the university within three years. He said this is the last year of the three-year period for completion of the project. He added they also discussed the bylaws issued by the government, indicating the bylaws were found to be contradictory to the law itself; hence, the two-week grace period to correct the mistakes. Al-Hamdan said these mistakes were discovered in 2012, but they were not referred to the Parliament for correction. He asserted the government was supposed to submit amendments to the legislature upon discovery of the mistakes.

The committee also looked into the possibility of separating the university from the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training. During the meeting, the government confirmed the formation of a committee tasked to study the issue and it will submit its report within three months. Moreover, the Financial Affairs Committee referred the Zakat House and consumer protection bills, which were approved by the Assembly in their first readings, to the Parliament Office to be tabled for discussion in the next session. Head of the committee MP Faisal Al- Shaye affirmed they reviewed both bills and finalized the report as part of preparations for the second reading. He said they endorsed most of the proposed amendments, voicing optimism on the approval of the two proposals in the second reading to pave the way for submission to the government.

By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff

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