Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi religious police may hire women – Official | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat – An official within the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice [CPVPV] acknowledged that the organization is having trouble monitoring female-only gatherings, particularly in light of reports that illicit and illegal activities are taking place at such gatherings. The source attributed the CPVPV’s failure to get to the bottom of what is happening at female-only gatherings to the absence of female CPVPV operatives.

The CPVPV official, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that “we have received unconfirmed reports that behaviour contrary to Islamic Sharia law is taking place at closed female-only gatherings. These reports are unconfirmed due to the absence of female CPVPV operatives who can transfer credible information on this issue.” He added “in addition to this, some people may be providing the CPVPV with inaccurate or false reports.”

The CPVPV official stressed that “in this regard, the CPVPV relies on other means [to uncover what is happening at female-only gatherings], including receiving reports from sources close to those taking part in such gatherings, as well as contacting the sites where such gatherings take place.”

He also confirmed that the CPVPV is thinking seriously about appointing female operatives who can specialize in dealing with such issues.

He stressed “if this is studied carefully, women working for the CPVPV will help to resolve many issues tied to female-only gatherings and the alleged illegal activities that are taking place there.”

With regards to the penalties for violations committed by women, the CPVPV official said that “we will take a preventative pro-active approach, before penalties are imposed, and this includes the sites and locations where these gatherings are taking place to be punished…as it would be better to punish the administrations that contravene the law, rather than the women themselves.”

He added that such penalties will have positive results, as it will serve to deter others from committing similar violations. He said “nobody will be unjustly punished…but whoever fails to comply with statutory regulations or Islamic Sharia law… deserves to be punished.”

CPVPV President Dr. Abdullatif Al Al-Sheikh had previously announced that a study would be conducted to research the benefits of women taking part in special operations for the CPVPV, adding that this came at the request of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz.

Dr. Al Al-Sheikh had previously told the press that “women working for the CPVIV will complete the work of men [working for the CPVPV]” adding that CPVPV female operatives would only deal with issues pertaining to women.

The CPVPV official also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the Prince Sultan Chair for Youth Research and Hisbah Issues, which is affiliated to the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, was established more than two years ago to study and research issues relating to the CPVPV and its dealings with the youth, as well as in order to provide solutions to outstanding problems. He added that the CPVPV is actively involved in this research.

The source also revealed that “70 percent of the CPVPV force has received additional training in one of the 13 training courses available, which deal with a number of issues including how to deal with cases of sexual harassment and extortion, as well as all other cases that the CPVPV deals with.” He stressed that these training courses aim to increase the “professionalism” of the CPVPV.

The CPVPV official also confirmed that a strategic plan is in place regarding CPVPV development and training, adding that this plan has already begun to bear fruit. The source revealed that this strategic plan was first implemented 4 years ago, and that it includes provisions that extend over the next 20 years.

As for the criteria regarding the selection of CPVPV operatives, the official stated that this is done through tests and interviews, adding that the CPVPV is seeking to develop its operations, raising the standards required for CPVPV operatives in terms of education.

He added “we are often asked to focus on finding forward-thinking people to work for the CPVPV, whilst at this time we are paying even more attention to this aspect, which includes rejecting [CPVPV] applicants with criminal records.”

The CPVPV official stressed that once someone is accepted within the CPVPV, they must pass a 3-month training course and then are provided with a one-year provisional contract during which their operations and behaviour are closely monitored.