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Saudi Arabian Authorities 'Temporarily Suspend' SMS Tracking Of Women

15/01/2014 16:51 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 23:56 GMT

Saudi Arabian authorities have suspended a programme which enables the movements of women in and out of the country to be electronically tracked, the AFP reports.

In November 2012 it emerged border control officials were using SMS to notify male guardians of the departure and arrival of their female dependents, even if they were travelling together.

It is illegal for Saudi women to travel abroad without male accompaniment and can only do so if their guardian agrees by signing a document know as the "yellow sheet" at an airport or border crossing.

women saudi arabia

Women's rights in Saudi Arabia are a contentious issue

On Tuesday the Arab News cited a spokesman for the Passports Department as saying: “The system has been suspended due to some observations and it will undergo amendment.”

Lt Col Ahmad Al Laheedan added the system could be reintroduced, with new options included.

He said: “In the past, they system included all the names that were registered. However, in the next phase it will be optional.

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“The amendments seek to enhance the system to make it better and fulfil all its objectives.”

Activists have welcomed the move, but some question just what “optional” could mean under these circumstances.

Blogger Jesse Walker points out:

jesse walker blogger

Women’s rights are a contentious subject in the Gulf Kingdom which is governed by Sharia Law.

Religious police only recently lifted a ban on females riding motorbikes and bicycles – as long as they wear the full-length veil and are accompanied by a male relative.

Last year the Kingdom issued its first domestic abuse advert featuring a hijab-clad woman – with just her eyes visible through the slits in her veil – one of which is blackened.

And it was only in 2011 that women were given the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections in 2015.