A Digital Leash For Women: SMS Tracking Of Wives In Saudi Arabia

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Saudi men can now be alerted via text message if women try to escape from the country. The new digital leash on women is being resoundingly criticized over social media channels. “Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government!”, wrote one angry commenter, according to Al Arabiya. The new technology has reportedly been in place since last week, and was discovered after a husband was alerted by immigration authorities while traveling with his wife.

“Saudi men earlier had the option of requesting alert messages about their dependents’ cross-border movement, but it appears that since last week such notifications are being sent automatically,” explains the BBC.

Al Arabiya further explains that a recent escape attempt by a Saudi woman to Sweden may have prompted the creation of a high-tech digital leash. While “the right of exit” has been generally recognized as a fundamental human right, Saudi Arabia remains a deeply conservative country and denies women the right to travel without the consent of their male guardian.

It’s unclear whether social media protests will do any good. Last year, Manal al-Sharif sparked a global wave of support after posting a YouTube video of herself defying the controversial driving ban. The support spared her from 10 whip lashes after King Abdullah overturned the sentence, but the driving ban remains a contentious legal battle.

This new controversy is perhaps even more egregious since it deliberately targets women fleeing from danger or simply seeking more freedom. It’s an important lesson in the fact that technology can be wielded equally for empowerment or persecution.

[Hat tip: Tiago Peixoto]

[Image Credit: Flickr user Retlaw Snellac]