Saudi Arabia has long been criticised regarding its women rights. In the Muslim country women cannot travel without the consent of their male ‘guardians’ and are now monitored by an electronic system at airports.
If a woman crosses the border a new system will automatically send a text message to the men in order to inform them that the woman is leaving or entering the country, even if the man is travelling with her.
The system drew attention when a man received an alert as he was leaving the Riyadh airport with his wife.
Earlier Saudi men could request to be alerted by message about their dependants’ cross-border movement, as an option. However it appears that these notifications are being sent automatically since last week.
Last year the Saudi authorities launched an electronic passport system, which included the text alerts.
Thanks to those new passports it is easier for citizens to deal with their travel arrangements “without having to visit the passport office”, according to the Saudi government.
The discovery caused a Twitter uproar.
One post mocked the move by suggesting the use of microchips and ankle bracelets to track women.
According to columnist Badriya al-Bishr who writes in the Saudi Gazette : “to put an adult woman under the constant control of her husband is proof that the wife is a slave.”
“This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned.”
King Abdullah has introduced political and social reforms in the country where women are not allowed to drive. In September last year he announced that in future elections women would be given the right to vote and run.
And after sending only all-males teams to the Games, the country sent two females athletes to the London Olympics last summer.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, ranked second worst in a Thomson Reuters global survey on women’s rights.