Saudi Arabia Introduces SMS System That Alerts Husbands, Fathers When Women Are Leaving The Country

Forget innovation, this is out-ovation.

The Saudi Arabian authorities have given new meaning to the phrase “women’s movement” with an innovative and controversial SMS service. An electronic system that monitors cross-border movements sends a text alert to a woman’s male guardian when she leaves the country–even when her guardian (her husband, father, whoever) is traveling alongside her. The system, which also sends alerts when minors leave the country, is a replacement for the previous Yellow Slip system, where female travel could only be authorized by a male signature on a yellow sheet of paper. This, says the Interior Ministry, is part of its modernizing e-government plan.


Unsurprisingly, the move has caused uproar around the world, with commentators likening the Saudi government to the Taliban and suggesting other ways of shackling their women, such as probation anklets or microchipping.

Saudi women are banned from getting behind the wheel of a car, and women are banned from many workplaces. Saudi Arabia sent two female athletes to this year’s London Olympics. In 2008, when no Saudi women were allowed to compete in the Games.

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My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.