Options promised in suspension of Saudi travel notification system

Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:24 PM
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia says it has suspended a system that electronically notified family members when female relatives or children left or entered the country.

The suspension was expected to be temporary while new options were added to the service, Gulf News reported Monday.

"In the past, the system included all the names that were registered," said Ahmad al-Luhaidan, a spokesman for the General Directorate for Passports. "However, in the next phase, the names will be optional. The amendments will seek to enhance the system to make it better and fulfill all the objectives for which it was set in the first place."

Supporters of the system approved of the promised improvements as a good way to help track cross-border travel of women and children in their families as well as a step toward eliminating the need for guardians to give written permission for travel.

"Without such a system, a woman or a child would be free to come and go and travel abroad without her or his family knowing about it," said one blogger writing under the screen name Habibi. "If such is the case, we will find many of the women and children abroad while their relatives are not aware of it."

Opponents said the system said it restricted freedom of women and was discriminatory.

"What's the difference between women and men in this point?" blogger Suhair Adel, a female critic, asked. "Is it possible for my brother who is younger than me by 10 years to be informed about my cross-border movements while I know nothing about his destinations? There is obvious chaos in the application of the law."

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