Women in Saudi Arabia face flogging and imprisonment if they check their husband’s phone without his permission.
The offence would be prosecuted as a violation of privacy because it is not covered in the country’s Islamic laws, senior lawyer Mohammad al-Temyat has said.
The issue has been a source of growing debate in the kingdom, with high profile cases leading to almost 35,000 tweets under a trending Arabic hashtag which translates as “Flogging of A Woman Checking Her Husband’s Phone”.
Mr Al-Temyat, a legal adviser who described himself as a "member" of the Saudi government’s Family Security Programme, confirmed in an interview with the Makkah newspaper that individuals would be brought before the court if a lawsuit was filed against them.
The legal guidance comes in spite of much-vaunted attempts at social reform under King Salman. The Family Security Programme is part of the Health Affairs branch of the Ministry of National Guard, and was established by Royal decree in 2005 to improve access to social services.
A female twitter user said “They [men] get annoyed of women ‘only’ checking her husband’s phone, whilst a woman lives all of her life in an ‘inquisition’. Whether that is regarding her clothing, sayings or behaviour.”
Another person called Salim tweeted saying that in order to make marital life “less complicated, a husband should share his private life with his life so they can live a life free from suspicion and doubt”.
On the other hand, Abdirahman highlights other significant problems in the Saudi community, stating: “what about a man who beats his wife? What about a man who does not give his wife her rights? The law should do something about this too.”
Speaking to The Independent, Mr Al-Temyat said he worked with the government only on a voluntary basis, providing legal advice.
He described the law on checking someone’s phone as Ta’zir offence, coming under judicial discretion because it has no definition or prescribed punishment under Islam.
He said: "I would like to clarify that this subject involves the husband and the wife and it is a Ta'zir offence so it is possible that there is a flogging, a fine, imprisonment, just signing a pledge or even nothing.
"It is a Ta'zir offence not identified legally, so the punishment is dependent on the damage caused from it. If there was no damage caused, there could be no punishment."
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