Saudi Arabia's 'digital leash' on women
The ultraconservative kingdom starts using new technology to alert male guardians when women leave the country
Saudi Arabia isn't exactly a champion of women's rights — it's the only country in the world where women aren't allowed to drive. But last week, the reclusive kingdom gave "new meaning to the phrase 'women's movement'" when it began tracking women who attempt to leave the country with an "innovative and controversial" SMS service, says Addy Dugdale at Fast Company.
The electronic monitoring service sends a text message to a woman's husband, father, or other male guardian when she arrives at an airport or attempts to cross a border — even if the man is traveling with her. The system is meant to be a high-tech version of the "Yellow Slip" law already in place in the country, which forbids women from traveling abroad without male accompaniment and requires a male signature on a yellow sheet of paper in order to leave the country.
After Saudis got wind of the new law, many lashed out on Twitter, since the site is a "rare bubble of freedom" in the otherwise oppressive country. "This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned," Saudi columnist Badriya al-Bishr tells AFP, while others lamented half-jokingly that implanting microchips on women could be the next step. Rwandan journalist Ruzindana Rugasaguhunga chimed in: