Since last week, male guardians of Saudi women have been receiving text messages on their mobile phones informing them that the women under their custody have entered or left the kingdom.

With this, Saudi Arabia has again attracted strong criticism from international media, for monitoring women by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.

Local website, Riyadh Bureau, however, explains the true picture .
The so-called monitoring system is seemingly not exclusively for women. When any of your dependents enter or leave the country, the sms notifications would be sent.

In Saudi Arabia, dependents are not allowed to leave the country without permission from their guardian or sponsor.This would include underage sons, daughters, wives as well as foreign workers sponsored by the male.

This notification system has been in place for a couple of years now.
The difference lies in the fact that while you had to register for the service to to receive the notification text messages in the past, now, the messages are received even if you don’t register with the ministry.

An explanation as to how the ministry gains access to your mobile number has also been arrived at.

According to the new system of electronic services named Absher, launched by MOI (Ministry of Interior) in April 2012, you may now issue an electronic travel permit to your dependents .

Before this system was launched , if a woman wanted to leave the country, her male guardian must give permission by signing a “yellow slip”, for scrutiny by the passport control officers at the airport or border.

One would need to register on MOI website to take advantage of the new service . Mobile number needs to be provided upon registration , which is stored and connected with the person’s ID.This would explain why people are now receiving text messages.

This service , which many find convenient,is optional. So if you don’t want to get the text messages, you needn’t register with the ministry.

All this complication could be avoided if only Saudi women didn’t need their male guardian’s permission to travel, but that’s just wishful thinking.