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Women under surveillance


Last updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 1:00 AM


Manal Bint Masoud Al-Sharif
Al-Hayat newspaper


THE Passport Department has, thankfully, included all Saudi citizens in its electronic service known as “We follow the movements of your women”.

The Saudis are included in this service without even asking for it. Under this service, the male guardian will be notified by text messages on his mobile whenever any of the women registered under his guardianship leaves or returns to the Kingdom.

The Ministry of Interior had launched this type of service on an optional basis for the first time in 2010. Under the service, the citizen would link the number of his civil record to his mobile phone. Whenever there was any activity relating to his civil ID such as one of his sponsored expatriate arriving at the airport or his passport about to expire, he would be notified about these activities by text messages.

It seems that either there is a surplus in the ministry’s budget or that a communications company has volunteered to provide this service free of charge to all citizens.

The story came to light when a Saudi citizen published a text message sent to him while he was leaving for abroad with his wife even though he had not registered for the service. The message read “Muna (his wife) left King Abdulaziz International Airport on 14-11-2012”.

Other Saudis confirmed the story saying they also received similar messages whenever a female member of their families traveled out or came back.

The reaction of a number of men and women on the Twitter to this service ranged between condemnation or denial in addition to too much cynicism.

Reading these tweets carefully, you will notice that the cynicism is not against the text messages themselves but rather against the rules and regulations that have further consolidated the position of inferiority of women and how they are being treated with suspicion and looked down upon.

Women are being treated as irresponsible and immature people no matter how old they may be. These regulations tie women to irrationality in a most provocative manner. This is evident in the system of civil affairs, travel documents and others.

The Passport Department had invented for us in the past “the yellow paper mahram”. For many decades these yellow pages played the role of the mahram until they were finally put on retirement and were replaced by an electronic system. This makes us request the Passport Department to extend its expertise in the use of “electronic solutions” to a number of needy departments such as the Police Department, which does not accept or receive information from women without mahrams.

The police are also unable to follow up men who stop paying alimony to their wives after divorce. This service should also be provided to the Justice Ministry, which will not accept complaints from women without an “identifier”, a male who will vouch for her identity.

In June 2011, the minister of justice promised to introduce the system of “electronic fingerprinting” to solve the problem of the male identifier. Since then nothing has happened in this regard. It is obvious that the Justice Ministry needs help from the Passport Department.

Note: Local Viewpoints are translated from the Arabic press to bring current mainstream opinions published in Saudi media to a worldwide audience. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Saudi Gazette or of its team.
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