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Saudi Arabia: Where Women are Dependents Forever and Ever

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Saudi Arabia, Human Rights, Law, Travel, Women & Gender

Saudi Arabia is keeping up with the times, and blogger Eman Al Nafjan tells [1] 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 [2] post here.