Saudi Arabia Tracks Their Women Electronically!

November 23, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

How would it feel if each and every movement of yours is monitored? I guarantee you wouldn’t like it at all –  no one would.

But that’s what the women in Saudi Arabia have to put up with. Women over there are not allowed to travel without approval from their male guardians, and now they are being monitored by an electronic system.

This system would track any cross-border movements and alert their male guardians through text messages.  And that too , even if they are travelling together.

This information on tagging the womenfolk was brought out into the open through tweets by Manal al-Sherif, who was alerted by a couple. Manal al-Sherif rose to fame after a campaign, which encouraged Saudi women to spurn a driving ban, was launched last year.

For women to leave Saudi Arabia, they would have to get a letter of consent from their male guardian. He has to sign a form called “Yellow Sheet” at the airport or the border, and only then will the women be allowed to leave.

This oppressive and ultra-conservative environment of the Kingdom has been condemned by many on Twitter. Many have come online mocking the Saudi authorities:

“Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government!”; “Why don’t you cuff your women with tracking ankle bracelets too?” tweeted Israa; “Why don’t we just install a microchip into our women to track them around?” joked another.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of the Islamic law or Sharia, which has led them to even ban women from driving – the only country in the world to do so.

Columnist Badriya al-Bishr criticised the Saudi government, saying that the deployment of technology to keep women restricted implies a backwardness in culture.

Last year, in June, a campaign was launched by female activists to defy the driving ban. Many of the activists were arrested and forced to sign a pledge ordering them to not drive again. There actually doesn’t exist any law in Saudi Arabia preventing women from driving, but the ban was imposed formally by the interior minister after 47 women got themselves arrested and punished for demonstrating in cars in November 1990.

Liberal activist Suad Shemmari has been quoted as saying the country’s “religious establishment” is the main cause of this blasphemous attitude towards women. “Saudi women are treated as minors throughout their lives even if they hold high positions,” says Shemmari.

More than the rules and regulations restricting women, it’s the attitude of the majority of men in Saudi that governs the oppression. Rules can be changed within a day, but minds can’t be.

We can only hope for a gradual reformation to take place in the Kingdom.

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