Women in Saudi Arabia are having their movements tracked by the government and sent to their husbands through text message, according to Saudi activists across the country.
News spread about the text message alerts when a couple leaving the country received a message from the government that the wife had crossed the country’s border. As part of a new electronic passport system established in 2010, when a woman or child crosses the border into a different country the Interior Ministry sends a text message to alert their male guardian. Originally the alerts were only sent to those who signed up for the service, however, the husband who received the message never registered to participate in the service.
When the husband received the message, the couple contacted Manal al-Sharif, a prominent Saudi women’s rights activist who protested the ban on women drivers. Al-Sharif immediately began organizing around the alerts and told CNN, “It’s very shameful. …It shows how women are still being treated as minors.” As soon as the couple told her what happened, she began to tweet what was happening and it soon went viral.
“It’s a power that’s being used over women,” according to Eman Al Nafjan. Al Nafjan is a Saudi writer who advocates ending the practice of male guardianship in the country altogether. “Women are not free. No matter how old you are, you’re always a minor. It’s almost like slavery. Guardianship is practically ownership.” Currently, every woman and underage child in Saudi Arabia must be granted permission to leave the country by their male guardian, who is either their father, husband, or brother.