New Domestic Violence Hotline in Saudi Arabia Flooded With Calls

Hotline opens as part of reforms launched in 2013 that include a law that criminalizes domestic abuse in conservative Muslim kingdom.

Women walk past by riot police watching for protesters, to prevent a third day of gathering of demonstrators against Saudi Arabia's execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016.

DPA - A newly established center for women to report on domestic violence in Saudi Arabia received a torrent of calls in its first three days, a ministry official said, according to local media reports on Tuesday.

Abdullah Al-Muaiqil, the deputy minister for social affairs, said the centre received 1,890 reports in the first days after it was opened on March 20. 

Half of the calls pertained to new cases, he noted, according to a report in Okaz newspaper.

The 24-hour call centre was established as part of reforms started in 2013, including a law which criminalized domestic abuse. The law was welcomed by some human rights group who were, however, critical that the legislation lacked specifics, including enforcement mechanisms.

Women in Saudi Arabia, a conservative monarchy, have significantly fewer rights than men, including a male guardianship system and an effective prohibition on driving cars.