The Real War On Women
Setting a new benchmark for state-enforce misogyny, Saudi Arabia instituted a new system that sends a text message to the “male guardian” of any women who leaves the country.
Saudi Arabia applies a strict interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law, and is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. Saudi women, denied the right to travel without consent from their male guardians are now being monitored by an electronic system that keeps women on an electronic leash, as virtual slaves, unable to travel or do much of anything else without the consent of their male guardian.
“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said columnist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticized the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
The kingdom’s “religious establishment” is still to blame for the discrimination of women in Saudi Arabia, says liberal activist Suad Shemmari.
“Saudi women are treated as minors throughout their lives even if they hold high positions,” said Shemmari, who believes “there can never be reform in the kingdom without changing the status of women and treating them” as equals to men.
That however, seems a very long way off.
The kingdom enforces strict rules governing mixing between the sexes, while women are forced to wear a veil and a black cloak, or abaya, that covers them from head to toe except for their hands and faces.
The many restrictions on women have led to high rates of female unemployment, officially estimated at around 30 percent.
When news of the electronic tracking system hit on November 22, the social network Twitter, a rare bubble of freedom for millions in the kingdom, exploded with accusations concerning the Saudi Theocracy’s humiliation and degradation of women. Critics used Twitter to mock Saudi authorities and condemned the decision.
Columnist Badriya al-Bishr tweeted “This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned. It would have been better for the government to busy itself with finding a solution for women subjected to domestic violence.”
“Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government!” read one post.
“Why don’t you cuff your women with tracking ankle bracelets too?” wrote Israa.
“Why don’t we just install a microchip into our women to track them around?” joked another.
Manal al-Sharif, a well-known women’s right campaigner, raised the alarm over the new text system on Twitter after being alerted to the new practice. Sharif, 33, attracted global attention last year when she led an underground civil disobedience campaign to allow women to drive. About 100 women took part. Many were arrested and jailed; one was sentenced to 10 lashes, and later reprieved. In June Sharif posted an open letter to King Abdullah appealing again for an end to the ban on women driving, the only law of its kind in the world.
Safa Alahmad, a freelance journalist and documentary maker, said the following about the new electronic tracking system for Saudi women:
“The new compulsory text service, compliments of the Saudi ministry of interior, is not only a vicious reminder that Big Brother is watching me but that now he will snitch and tell my ‘guardian’ every time I leave the country. Apparently, as a Saudi woman, I don’t even deserve the simplest of rights like the right to privacy. The core issue remains the same. Saudi women are viewed and treated as minors by the Saudi government. A text message doesn’t change that. It’s just adding insult to injury.”
The extreme oppression and discrimination that women face in Saudi Arabia is rooted in Sharia law and tribal customs. Aside from being denied the right to travel without their guardian’s consent, Saudi women are required to wear a veil from head to toe, excluded from most workplaces, and often denied the opportunity to participate in women’s sport.
At best, women in the Muslim country of Saudi Arabia are treated as pampered children; at worst, they are simply slaves, at the mercy of whoever happens to be their appointed male guardian. The country has long been criticized for its appalling and barbaric record on women’s rights. The new electronic monitoring system has only inflamed the anger, resentment and moral outrage of civilized women and men around the world.