Women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic tracking system that sends text messages to their husbands or male guardians when they leave the country.
Male guardians already must sign a “yellow sheet” at the airport or border to give women permission to leave the country but, as of last week, “Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are traveling together.”
Manal al-Sherif, who urged Saudi women to defy the driving ban last year, informed the world on Twitter after hearing about the tracking system from a Saudi couple.
According to al-Sherif, “the husband, who was traveling with his wife, received a text message from the immigration authorities informing him that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh.”
Some mocking responses on Twitter included:
“Why don’t we just install a microchip into our women to track them around?”
“If I need an SMS to let me know my wife is leaving Saudi Arabia, then I’m either married to the wrong woman or need a psychiatrist.”
A Saudi columnist wrote that “this is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned” and “it would have been better for the government to busy itself with finding a solution for women subjected to domestic violence” than track their movements into and out of the country.”
Saudi Arabia is the only nation where women cannot drive, and women were just recently granted the right to vote and run in local elections in 2015.
Suad Shemmari, a liberal activists in Saudi Arabia, said the kingdom’s “religious establishment” ensures that “”Saudi women are treated as minors throughout their lives even if they hold high positions” and “there can never be reform in the kingdom without changing the status of women and treating them.