The concept of “big brother” has taken on a new meaning for Saudi women.
Last week, it became evident that the Saudi Arabian government is electronically monitoring women who leave the country and notifying male family members via text messages without the request or consent of the family. Not only is this a complete breach of personal privacy, but also the government is feeding male domination, control, and treatment of women like children or slaves.
Though the notification system has been in place since 2010, male guardians formerly had to opt-in to receive such notifications. Saudi women – who make up up some of the most oppressed and restricted women in the world — must have guardianship approval to leave the country, attend school, drive, or get a job. Instead of having the right to make decisions for themselves, Saudi women’s brothers, husbands, and fathers are given legal power and control over their female family members, called “dependents.”
One Saudi writer is concerned that the system is being augmented instead of phased out:
This (male guardianship) system enables exploitation of women — it's government-sanctioned exploitation," said Al Nafjan, adding how Saudi laws enable men to exert complete control over their female dependents.
"It's a power that's being used over women," explained Al Nafjan, who strongly advocates ending the guardianship system. "Women are not free. No matter how old you are, you're always a minor. It's almost like slavery. Guardianship is practically ownership."
The Saudi government’s real war on women is one of the most deliberate and oppressive in the world. Guardianship is not freedom, and this exploitation must end.