Saudi Arabia: Where Women are Dependents Forever and Ever

Saudi Arabia is keeping up with the times, and blogger Eman Al Nafjan tells us how.

Did you know that Saudi Arabia has a service in place where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sends a text message to a male guardian every time a “dependent” leaves the country?

And the male “guardians” are the fathers and husbands, or in their absence, brothers and the “dependents” refer to the wives, daughters and sisters.

Eman takes a break from her holiday to report:

I am currently on a family vacation in Italy but I had to post what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent my husband. Apparently they have a new service where they send the male guardian a text every time a “dependent” leaves the country. They don’t state which country the dependent left for but simply state that they did leave. My husband tells me he got the same text when I left for Germany.

She adds:

I am an adult woman that has been earning my own income for over a decade now but according to the Saudi government, I am a dependent till the day I die because of my gender.

This short post opened Pandora's Box, attracting 93 comments and counting. Comments range from support messages to those questioning religions to those from readers who share similar experiences.

Kha is surprised and writes:

My goodness. They send text messages? It’s amazing how a country can get with the times in terms of technology but be COMPLETELY behind in terms of gender and sex equality. Huh.

A reader who signed her name as Health Practitioner also shares her experience with travel saying:

I was travelling with my mother who is 60 that time and we discovered that the permission has expired, the officer told me, it is okay if the female above 50 she can travel without a permission!!!

what shocks me more; that lots of female doctors and Phd holders cannot travel to attend any conference or event without getting a permission from her male guardian who could be 21 years old but useless or younger than her..

for me, this is real tragedy when well-educated depended females cannot even visit a Saudi gov. office without their guardian not to mention travelling abroad..

And Om Lujain adds:

I think they each chose whatever age they want to as my mom is 54 and still needs permission from her younger brother (she is divorced) to travel, and still has to travel with a paper giving her permission from said younger brother.

And you are correct, it is a tragedy when a grown women cannot make her own decisions and must in essence beg her brother/son/father/husband for whatever she needs.

Meanwhile, Hala says that such resources used to track the women of Saudi Arabia should be better invested in developing the country's infrastructure. She writes:

To think of all the money and planning that go to follow up on women, while our infra-structure is messy and collapsing with the some rainfall, someone up there got their priorities mixed…

Fawad plays the devil's advocate and says he doesn't find an issue with sending a text message to the guardian:

its just a arrivals and departures,SMS servise.whats the big deal lol

But Kha doesn't take the comment lightly and retorts:

It is a big deal because it is basically a tracking system. Why shouldn’t someone be able to make decisions on their own without anyone knowing? Doesn’t a woman, or ANYONE, have a right to privacy? These text messages imply that these women are so helpless or dumb that the husbands need to keep a watchful eye. You know who you need to keep a watchful eye on? Children. Grown women who are professionals are NOT children. They should send text messages if a child leaves the country alone, not a grown woman!

And Jenna brings a new proposal to the table:

You know I also want a tracking system for my husband…everytime he talks to some strange woman or flirts with a woman… I want an SMS!

Meanwhile, Vicks throws yet another dimension into the fray, saying:

Interesting article !!! What amazes me is the fact that though most of the comments on this article suggest they dislike this idea (and many others alike)applied by the Saudi govt but they fail to show the slightest dissent to the authorities or show any form of protests ( where are the womens rights activists or the muslim rights groups in this case)……
Wouldnt at all be surprised that had any western govt did the same to muslim women in their countries,,,, the same people will be rallying outside chanting discrimination and islamophobia !!!!

And Ari calls for a revolution:

I am waiting for the day that these Saudi princesses of privilege actually DO something to set themselves free, rather than merely complaining all the time.

In the west, both women of privilege and social position as well as ordinary women and even men marched, protested, were arrested and imprisoned where many suffered abuse such as being force fed—all to get equality and the right to vote.

When Saudi women, as well as other Muslim women and men, are willing to pay the price for equality then they will get it. In the meantime, some will take vacations in the free world, while their less privileged sisters and brothers continue to suffer.

Until then, happy shopping!

For more reactions, please read the comments on the original post. Eman also writes a follow up post here.


  • abidrahman

    in the judicial system of Islam a woman is required to always be with a “mahram” or relative not as a tracking system but first off it is the command of god, it protects the women from the harmful and evil things, and ensures her rights, and to the woman who said these things know, she is most likely ignorant of the reality of this world.

  • France

    To abidrahman: That’s only another patriarchal rationalization/justification for domination and abuse. What it actually does is that it justifies to track women.

    I have often a thought for women in Saudi Arabia. They are slaves but no rock concerts will be organized to help raise the awareness and move progress forward… it says so much.

  • The freedom that you talk about and seem to revere much in the context of women is understandable only in a modern and technologically advanced society where it is now respected, valued and cherished as a hard won freedom! In other places where people live in a primitive or near primitive state, or even in a medieval state, it is unimaginable to leave them unescorted and vulnerable to attacks by perfect strangers or even one’s own kith and kin who may be lewd-minded! Not all places are equally situated and the culture differs from place to place according to their historical development!

  • abidrahman

    to france: if anyone in saudia doesnt like our country they can leave, the borders are open, more so the only point of view that the western world hears of saudia is from those women ignorant of allahs cammand who just fell like yelling and causing evil (just bratty little kids, like salama yaqub) , not the 99.9% of the women in saudia who love allah and his commands…i dont know if your muslim or christain or jewish but all three requre women to coveer there heads,

  • moulana saleem ebrahim

    Asalaamu alaikum my brothers and sisters , Ramadaan Kareem . The Saudis need to differentiate between their interpretation of Islaam/Saudi law from the most beautiful Deen , Islaam . Dont forget that our Mother Aisha Siddiqah [RA] rode a camel as her means of transport and the Islaam that our Master [saw] spread made it possible for inter marriages . However unfortunately these are some of the issues that are taboo/not heard of amongst the Ulama and activists [ if there are any there] about women . This is what gives western feminism an oppotunity to again access to the women there. May Allah guide us all.wassalaam

  • bonnie

    Ramadaan kareem!I am not a muslim and I do respect the religion and religious acts that go with Islam, however, there are certain things I just cannot get my head around.I have done so much research and have read many articles and books on the Kingdom, and Islam and I can’t help to feel that there are certain areas that are being confused and cross referenced to the Muslim relion that are infact customs and traditions from certain middle eastern regions. I am by no means trying to be disrespectful and would be very gratefull if someone could help me to understand the thoughts behind the following: child brides, honor executions, denying women the right to a basic education? Like I mentioned before, I am not trying to be disrespectful I have read so much on the abuse and discrimination of women. I do agree with one of the previous comments, these women should try and stand up for themselves too. I lived in the middle east for 2 yrs and learnt so much about the Muslim religion, I met muslim men that are such great ambasadors for their religion and then met others that drank and partied harder than the expats and that really made me very angry! I just see so many contrasts?

  • […] Global Voices Blog has recently reported that the Saudi government is currently using a system that informs male […]

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