24 Nov 2012

Saudi women now electronically monitored

4:39 pm on 24 November 2012

Women in Saudi Arabia are being monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.

They are already denied the right to travel in the kingdom without consent from their male guardians and are banned from driving.

The BBC reports the case came to light when a man travelling with his wife received text message as they left Riyadh airport. It was to alert him that his wife had just left Riyadh airport.

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

The story has caused an uproar on social networking sites. Some Twitter users have mocked the move, suggesting also the use of microchips and ankle bracelets to track women.

"Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government!" read one post. 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 BBC reports text alerts are part of an electronic passport system launched by the kingdom 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 is 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.