WASHINGTON – Heres what passes for progress for the Saudi Arabian womens rights movement: The countrys passport office suspended a program that automatically notified via text message a womans male guardian if his charge was venturing outside the countrys borders, even if they were traveling together.
The system has been suspended due to some observations, and it will undergo amendment, Lt. Col. Ahmad al-Laheedan of Saudi Arabias Passports Department said. But after undergoing amendment, the program may very well return.
Arabianbusiness.com called the programs suspension a historic move towards greater female independence. That such a development would qualify as historic speaks for itself.
The move will have little practical effect, as women still need permission from their guardian – husband, brother, father and, sometimes even, son – to pass through immigration. But thats all if they are going outside the country. Being banned from driving, Saudi women can rarely travel farther than their feet can carry them without a male companion. Without the consent of their guardian, Saudi women cant attend school, get a job or receive medical treatment.
Some women in Saudi Arabia have begun defying the law that prohibits them from getting behind the wheel. That movement has garnered international attention and has cast a spotlight on a country often considered the worlds most repressive in terms of womens rights. For now, the driving ban remains in place.
But at least Saudi husbands will now have to opt in to track their wives through passport control.