NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – More women in Saudi Arabia are being blackmailed online by extortionists seeking sex or money, according to the head of the country’s religious police who calls for tougher measures to be adopted.
According to media reports, the chief of the kingdom’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice Sheikh Abdel Latif al- Sheikh said that eight cases of online blackmail had been reported on the same day in the capital, Riyadh.
“Through modern technology, some methods have been used by weak, evil people … They do not have a religious deterrent and through this technology they have managed to abuse some women,” he said.
Online harassment and abuse is a growing problem in countries across the world, and laws often lag behind technology as online abusers are harder to identify and nail down.
Al- Sheikh told Al Arabiya news channel that perpetrators needed to be named and shamed in the media as a deterrent, and that current sentences were too light.
“It could be that a woman committed a mistake and a person took pictures of her and managed to secure incriminating evidence and then blackmails her,” he said.
In addition to extorting women for sex or money, he said, “Some blackmail the women in order to force them to turn to drug dealing…Others might force them to work in prostitution.”
Saudi religious police are taking steps to actively protect women victims of blackmail, al- Sheikh said, calling for the names of perpetrators to be published in media throughout the kingdom.