Middle East

Uproar over Saudi women's 'SMS tracking'

Saudi women in Riyadh. File photo
Image caption Saudi women are banned from travelling abroad without their male guardian's consent

A discovery that Saudi male guardians are automatically getting text messages about cross-border movements of female dependants has caused a Twitter uproar.

"Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government!" read one post, while another suggested microchips.

Attention was drawn to the system when a man travelling with his wife got an alert as they left Riyadh airport.

Saudi women are denied the right to travel without their guardian's consent and are also banned from driving.

Reform attempts

Saudi men earlier had the option of requesting alert messages about their dependants' cross-border movement, but it appears that since last week such notifications are being sent automatically.

Some Twitter users have mocked the move, suggesting also the use of microchips and ankle bracelets to track women.

Another tweet read: "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."

The text alerts are part of an electronic passport system launched by the Saudi authorities last year.

The government argues that e-passports make it easier for citizens to deal with their travel arrangements "without having to visit the passport office".

Saudi Arabia remains a deeply conservative country, however King Abdullah has recently introduced some cautious political and social reforms.

In September 2011, he announced that women would be given the right to vote and run in future municipal elections.

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