As of last week, Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together.
Saudi women’s rights activist Manal al-Sherif, who last year urged women to defy a driving ban, said a man had contacted her to say he had received a text from the immigration authorities while at the airport with his wife.
“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said Saudi author and journalist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the kingdom.
“This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned,” she added.
Under laws influenced by the strict Wahabi interpretation of Islam, women are not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia without permission from their male guardian (a husband, father or brother), who must give consent by signing what is known as the “yellow sheet” at the airport or border.