Leaving The Country? Saudi Arabia May Text Message Your Male Guardian

Imagine if every time you left the country — for a vacation, for college, for a new job — you needed permission from your father, brother or husband.

That’s the story of Saudi Arabian women’s lives: women have male guardians (“mahrams”) who must go through a bureaucratic process to grant them permission to travel unaccompanied. But now, technology might be involved: recently, at least one Saudi women’s rights activist claims her husband received a text message from the foreign ministry when she left the country for a vacation. The UK’s Gaurdian has wondered if text message updates to male guardians about a lady’s whereabouts will become a widespread practice in Saudi Arabia. But text messages warnings do not make a lot of sense, wrote Nesrine Malik, since if a woman is leaving the country at all she must already have been granted permission. Malik suspects the text messages are notifications in case the guardian was “co-opted or tricked” into giving the OK.

I would make a joke about how Big Brother is watching, but for some Saudi women living in such a patriarchal culture, their big brother really is watching …

[Guardian UK]