Women in Saudi Arabia are terribly oppressed – they cannot vote, drive, or work in many places. To even leave the country, they need to produce written permission from their male guardian (their father, brother, or husband), even if the woman is going out of the country with the male guardian. Saudi Arabia has taken this extremely misogynistic view to a new level though – male guardians will now receive a text message alert when “their” woman is leaving the country. Even more disgusting is that these texts – sent from the Interior Ministry as part of its tracking system – are being sent to all male guardians; including those who opted out of this program. While this program has been in place since 2010, until recently, guardians had to specifically request the notifications in order to receive them.
Manal Al-Sharif and her husband were “shocked” when they were leaving Saudi Arabia together, when all of a sudden her husband received a text letting him know his wife was leaving the country. Al-Sharif’s husband had not requested from the Interior Ministry this information, alarming the two even more.
This alert program is not just for women though – it is also used for those who women are most aptly compared to in Saudi Arabia- these alerts are also used for children, and children also have guardians.
Saudi writer and blogger Eman Al Nafjan posits the question:
“Why is [the guardianship system] being technologically implemented and being updated?… Why is it not being phased out? That’s the real question.”
In 2012, is the fact that Saudi Arabia is finding new ways to infantilize women a sign that it has no intention of giving women the rights and freedoms they deserve? Is the GPS alert an indication that Saudi Arabia intends to restrict women’s rights further in the years to come? What should be done to push Saudi Arabia into the modern era and end its misogynistic treatment of women?